A zombie falls in love with a woman and said feelings might be reciprocal in the new film “Warm Bodies”.
Wait! Don’t leave! “Warm Bodies” isn’t merely more of the romantic movie monsters genre. Said undead isn’t akin to Edward, Jacob or any other beasty, nor is the movie a sappy yarn of love conquering all, even the desire to eat someone. Well, not entirely at least.
“Warm Bodies” is an adaptation of the successful Isaac Marion novel with a clever premise; what if there are still people inside those zombie bodies? It ponders that question with a sense of humor as its lead character R (Nicholas Hoult), who can’t remember his real name, stumbles around an airport with similar brethren.
The great zombie plague/apocalypse/thing has occurred, with humans siphoned into a walled off city near where R and the gang’s home resides. He spends his days hungry, confused about how to perform any task other than shuffling slowly and trying in vein to put whole sentences together.
We learn this via R’s narration, which is sans the grunts he talks in elsewhere. It’s revealed that R has a personality and preferences; a love of the kind of tunes modern music nerds go nuts for (M83, Bon Iver) is a big one.
One day while searching for some lunch, better known as us, R’s zombie brain profusely flashes with a bit of the ol’ humanity when he sees a girl fighting to escape his horde. R saves the young woman, much to her confusion. What follows is goofy and surprising, as director-writer Jonathan Levine (“50/50”) unravels a strange story about dead hearts beginning to beat once more.
That instinct to compare “Warm Bodies” to “Twilight” is off track. Levine’s film ignores the melodrama, seriousness and angst of those pictures, instead playing gleefully with the tropes of zombies. Something as simple as R’s desire to walk faster gets a laugh, aided by Hoult’s supreme likability.
Despite his gray skin, brain-loving and horrific, just horrific posture, Hoult’s eyes and occasionally creeping smile makes R loveable. One gets a true sense of R’s pining for a body able to function like his mind does, or least as it attempts to do.
The narrative elements where love interest Julie (Teresa Palmer) is at the forefront are more mediocre. Julie’s the daughter of the city’s military head (John Malkovich) and has grown tired of his methodical, cynical view of life. These details about Julie are necessary to round out her character, but the film only shines when R is front and center.
R’s friendship with M (Rob Corddry) is one of the movie’s finer points; a pair of buddies that eat out together. Corddry, normally an over-the-top performer, is memorable here as he looks on confusedly at R’s development with a look of awe and envy.