The idea of a teen zombie romance comedy didn’t impress me at first. I’ve had my fill of teen vampire romance, so I wondered whether I should even bother with Warm Bodies. Fortunately, because of a quality script, an engaging cast and excellent direction, Warm Bodies is a funny, smart, entertaining twist on teen romance. It’s a lighthearted little zombie romance made better by quality zombie effects, clever dialogue and a story, directed and penned by Jonathan Levine, that never takes itself too seriously – but then how could it?
As the film opens, we meet R (Nicolas Hoult), an undead teen who, along with countless others, suffers walking the earth, feeding on the living and basically aimlessly dealing with his fate. He collects things (vinyl records, bobbles, shiny things) and stores them in the body of an airplane, which sits on the tarmac of the airport where he spends most of his days – locked away from humanity by a huge wall, guarded by the leader of the living beings Grigio (an underused and seemingly miscast John Malcovich) and a motley crew of young still living soldiers. On an outing for flesh, R and several other zombies find a band of friends/soldiers and in a frenzy of bullets, blood, and feasting, R finds Julie (Teresa Palmer). He approaches her shortly after he eats her boyfriend Perry (Dave Franco) and feasts on his brain (absorbing Perry’s memories). R rescues Julie, after having a flash of heart upon seeing her, and he carries her to his airplane home. While terrified at first, Julie accepts her friendship with R and soon they discover that hope and love are the keys to restoring humanity.
Hoult, who I adored several years back in About a Boy, starring Hugh Grant, plays a likeable, teen zombie to whom we quickly connect. He is droll in his delivery and wonderful in his facial expressions – tough when R works so hard not to let his monstrous appetite for human flesh and blood overtake is desire for Julia. Rather than eat Julie, who looks delectably adorable, he protects her much like a dog would his owner, keeping her close and well guarded. Julie, in spite of her recent loss and R’s undeadness, soon warms to him and to their surprise he begins to warm too. Together they offer believable onscreen chemistry. I relished in the more realistic (in spite of the obvious living/dead obstacle) relationship between Julie and R as compared to say Edward and Bella, in the Twilight series, which I found overly obnoxious and annoying. Although R lacks the polished demeanor of Edward, he, to me, is far more relatable.
Julie and R’s relationship begins to foster hope (and a return of life) in the zombie world and when she finally convinces her hardnosed father (Grigio) that zombies can change, man and zombie rally against “bonies,” creatures who after serving time as zombies, become unsalvageable skeletal blood-thirsty beings. R’s best friend, a zombie who is one of the first after R to “feel” hope, as played by veteran character actor, Rob Corddry, brings heart (ironically) and witty humor to the tale. Franco (mostly in the “dreams” experienced by R for having eaten his brain) and Analeigh Tipton (America’s Top Model and Crazy, Stupid Love) help round out the cast nicely.
I found the PG-13 rated rated Warm Bodies a sweet breath of fresh air and a wonderful twist on teen romance and for that matter, on apocalyptic zombie genre films. Teens and adults alike will appreciate the fresh take on well-traveled tale. With teenaged zeal, I am placing a B+ in my grade book. It will please those who read the source material and anyone who likes intelligent, well-directed and entertainingly acted storytelling.