Monday, February 4, 2013

Movie Review: Warm Bodies

Warm Bodies
Directed by: Jonathan Levine.
Written by: Jonathan Levine based on the novel by Isaac Marion.
Starring: Nicholas Hoult (R), Teresa Palmer (Julie), Analeigh Tipton (Nora), Rob Corddry (M), Dave Franco (Perry), John Malkovich (Grigio), Cory Hardrict (Kevin).

The biggest problem I always had with the Twilight books and movies is that I always thought it was silly for a vampire and a human to fall in love. After all, vampires are predators, and human are their prey, so it’s kind of like a lion falling in love with an antelope. And vampires, of course, are not alive, but “undead” – so they are essentially walking, talking, killing corpses. How could someone fall in love with a corpse? And why is it that people fall in love with vampires so easy, but never fall in love with a zombie?

As if in answer to my query comes Warm Bodies – a funny teen romance where a zombie and a human really do fall in love. Yes, the premise is as ridiculous as Twilight, but one of the many charms of Warm Bodies is that it knows full well that the premise is ridiculous – and has some fun with it. The movie plays with the conventions not only of the zombie genre, but also romantic comedies. It isn’t trying to be a “generation defining love story” as some have ridiculously claimed Twilight is – but rather just a fun zombie comedy. And while it is no Shaun of the Dead or Zombieland, I had a hell of a lot of fun watching it.

The movie stars Nicholas Hoult as R, who also narrates his adventure. He doesn’t remember his real name – but thinks it started with a R – and doesn’t remember what he did for a living (although, as he states, judging on his hoodie, he was unemployed). He doesn’t even remember how he became a zombie, just that he is, and although he feels guilty about eating people, he does so anyway. The “new hunger” is too strong for him to ignore. Like many other zombies, he lives at an airport. He has made his home in an old passenger plane that he has filled with whatever he comes across and likes. He loves vinyl records for example, but has a lot of other stuff. One day he and a group of zombies come across a group of survivors, and one thing leads to another, and R is soon eating someone’s brains. This is when we learn that when a zombie eats the brain of somehow, he gets to see their memories. I’m sure some purists of the genre will argue this goes against well-established genre rules, but considering I haven’t really seen another movie from the point of view of a zombie, I cannot say it really does. Anyway, what he learns is that the guy whose brain he is eating is in love with Julie (Teresa Palmer), also at that raid. When R sees her, he is instantly flooded with love – and rather than eat her, he saves her life and brings her back to his plane. Obviously, this is not the way to start a healthy relationship, but R doesn’t really have another option. And once Julie realizes that R means her no harm, she starts to relax around him, and open up. And gradually, R starts becoming more and more human.

Warm Bodies owes much of its charm to its two stars. Hoult, who first came to audience’s attention 10 years ago in About a Boy, has grown up a lot, and turned into quite a good actor. The role requires him to be funny under a lot of zombie makeup for much of its running time, and for the most part, he succeeds wonderfully. Perhaps even better is Teresa Palmer who really did remind me of a sunnier, less mopey, Kristen Stewart, and who is quite charming. They get good support for Annaleigh Tipton as Julie’s best friend (who picks a perfect song for a makeover montage), John Malkovich, who is clearly doing this for a paycheck, but it is still fine, and especially Rob Corddry, who steals his scenes as R’s best friend M.

The film was written and directed by Jonathan Levine, and even though it is quite different from his last film – the cancer dramedy 50/50 – he shows once again a gift for comic timing behind the camera. Warm Bodies may not be a great movie, but it is great fun to watch.

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