Friday, February 15, 2013

Movie Review: Warm Bodies

You might not think that a zombie flick would make the perfect Valentine's weekend date but in this case you'd be surprisingly wrong. In Warm Bodies, director Jonathan Levine gives us as light-hearted and romantic a zombie movie as mankind is most-likely capable of making.

Meet R (Nicholas Hoult), a shuffling reanimated corpse living at an airport in the aftermath of the zombie apocalypse. He is a zombie of few words but many thoughts and as he meanders aimlessly amongst hundreds of other zombies, we hear his inner monologue. R (he can't remember the rest of his name) has recently been feeling the need to connect more with people. He has almost-conversations with a sort of zombie best friend and vaguely wishes there were more to life than eating brains.  He tries to imagine what kind of life each zombie around him led before they were infected.  He knows, however, that it's only a matter of time before he's so far gone that he starts eating his own flesh and becomes a creepy skeleton creature. In the tragically limited zombie vernacular, these things are called Bonies.

Elsewhere, meet Julie (Teresa Palmer), a real live girl in a walled-off section of the city. Her father is the military leader of the rag tag human survivors and one day he sends her on a supply run outside the walls. Leading zombie and leading lady meet when R's shuffling horde attacks Julie's machine-gun wielding young friends. During the ensuing deadly struggle, Julie catches R's eye. Something about the way her hair falls as she blows the head off his fellow zombies stops his already-stopped heart. Ah, young love. Somehow, R manages to save Julie from the fray and convince her he's not going to eat her. He takes her to his zombie hideout on an abandoned 747 and promises to keep her safe. As they bond, it doesn't take long for them to realize that R is becoming less dead and soon the effect begins to spread to the other infected zombies.

There's a lot to like here. Between R's hilarious narration and the well-executed humor of zombies trying to act like living people, I laughed plenty. R and Julie are likable, relatable protagonists. Rob Corddry and Analeigh Tipton as R's and Julie's respective best friends bring a lot of heart and humor to the story. Julie's father's character arc may have felt a little rushed, and the Bonies' unconvincing motion was a little distracting, but these complaints are easily forgivable in the midst of so much good fun. I should also mention that, while there is some obligatory zombie gore, it's about as family friendly as zombie gore can be.

Essentially we're dealing with a classic star-crossed lovers' tale mixed with an Awkward Boy Wins Over Confident Girl story. But what really makes the film work so well is that it isn't just a story about a zombie falling in love with a non-zombie girl; it's a story about humanity learning to forgive itself and heal in the face of tragedy and violence. The film's conclusion is beautiful. There is an iconic image at the end of the movie that gave me a rush of hope for our troubled world and that alone made Warm Bodies one of my favorite moviegoing experiences of the past year.

Grade: A
Rating: PG-13 for language, some zombie gore

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