The last thing I expected from a movie with a generic title and a flimsy premise (on paper) was to be charmed, and to laugh and to see a sweet romance. But that, folks, is why you actually have to go and see the films before you write a review.
“Warm Bodies,” God, that’s an awful title, starts with Nicholas Hoult playing a Zombie named…well he can’t actually remember his name, but he knows it starts with the letter “R.” Lurching through the airport in a post-apocalyptic world, his drudgery of an undead’s life has him somewhat depressed, as he talks to himself through a hilarious inner-monologue. You can see the first four minutes of the movie to get an idea of what I’m talking about here: http://www.entertainmentordie.com/2013/01/watch-the-first-four-minutes-of-warm-bodies/
“Warm Bodies,” it should be said, seems to break all kinds of Zombie-movie rules, so horror nerds should be prepared for that going in. These Zombies are completely self-aware—they have feelings, they don’t like the fact that their diet consists of protein in the form of human flesh and organs (Braaaainss). In fact, “R” is almost ashamed and asks the audience to turn away as he devours a human who has stumbled into the wrong place.
What poor “R” couldn’t have known was that he just ate the boyfriend of a sweet blonde human girl named Julie (Teresa Palmer). What Julie couldn’t possibly know is that when a Zombie eats someone’s brain, he can tap into that person’s memories and dreams—at least for a while. So a connection, of sorts, happens rather quickly. “R” convinces Julie to come with him so that she’ll be safe from other Zombies who are more concerned with calories than goodwill. The surviving humans of the world (led by Julie’s militant father, a goofy John Malkovich) are out to shoot all zombies in the head, and on the opposite side are “Bonies”—uber-undeads that will eat anything. Do you see what’s coming? Yes, as old (olde) as Shakespeare, we have two star crossed lovers from warring sides, falling for each other, against all odds.
And here is where the movie goes from being funny to being, well, kind of sweet and romantic. “R”’s Zombie-bachelor pad is an abandoned jumbo-jet, sitting just off the runway. He spins old vinyl records for Julie and a bond forms. Later, there’s a scene where Julie is at the balcony and Romeo, uh, I mean, “R” is down below, beckoning his lover. Only, the Shakespearean reference is a lot cooler than I just made it sound. And on the topic of references, they also pull off a cool shout-out to "Beauty and The Beast."
Cool—yes, that’s the word. This isn’t a “wannabe Twilight” flick, it’s a “Twilight Don’tWannbe,” and it achieves its goal by not taking itself too seriously. Even the soundtrack is “cool”, sometimes in a backdoor way, like using the 80’s ballad “Missing You” for laughs, or Bruce’s “Hungry Heart” as a wink-wink to the corresponding subject matter.
At the (cough) heart of this film is Hoult’s sincere performance as the sensitive corpse. He has the romantic tendencies of Frankenstein and the tragic side-effects of Dracula (“The Undead Never Sleep”). His Zombie buddy (Rob Corddry) comes in for comic relief with lines that get both more articulate and more profane as the movie goes along.
As I said, there are genre rules that are broken, modified, made fun of and followed. “Warm Bodies” makes up its own rules, and all we have to do is drop our defenses and our expectations, and let a fun and amiable little rom-com make us feel, yes, I’ll say it, just a little bit more alive for a couple of hours.