Did Hollywood actually have one of those rare moments where something from the often shunned pit of creativity, managed to crawl out and become a part of the theatrical mainstream?
Warm Bodies may revolve around the living-dead, but the 97 minutes sure show a hell of a lot of heart and intelligence. Granted, the root of the assorted of themes woven in are pulled from cinemas’ past; but the piecing together of them, or reanimation if you will, sure made for a fresh and inspiring viewing.
The setting is during the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse in a major metropolitan city. We meet a stereotypical zombie (Nicholas Hoult), in the physical sense, whose coherent thoughts act as the narration for the film (think the babies from the Look Who’s Talking flicks) as he stumbles and grunts around. His mind is still relatively sharp but also well aware of what he’s become. It’s essentially a candid/sarcastic commentary about zombie life. But his analysis changes when he crosses paths with a small human task-force and meets Julie (Teresa Palmer). Although he just chowed down on her friends (guy’s got to eat), he surprisingly feels something for her and tries to form a connection. Thing is, the girl he chose just happens to be the daughter of the commander (John Malkovich) of the last remaining human contingent. So it could get complicated; and he knows it’s a shot in the dark for what his dead-heart desires.
In the effort not to give too much away, let’s just say this pulls plot points from flicks such as Edward Scissorhands. There’s also a little spoof-like nature from Shaun of the Dead. And if you really take it at face-value, minus the timely and amusing spoof/comedy inserts, this is what a Twilight movie should have been. There’s a coming-of-age vibe mixed in with a romantic angle, and those are topped off with snippets of typical zombie horror via a group called “Boney’s” – when zombies shed their skin, turning into skeletons, and will feast on both humans and the undead. All the familiar storytelling angles mesh together to form a fluid story that for whatever reason just feels different.
Now the one angle that gets the most attention is the “Beauty and the Beast” arc between Hoult and Palmer. What makes this unique is that although Hoult’s mannerisms as the aware zombie are spot-on and balanced, his blunt narration - which only the audience hears - sells the semi-goofy scenarios onscreen. To be clear though, this is not a full-blown spoof by any means. It actually plays similar to what the godfather of the zombie movie, George A. Romero, did within his classic “Living-Dead” pieces. While the basic elements of a zombie story are present, the social commentary - delivered through all the characters’ actions (this cast includes Rob Corddry as a zombie, and Analeigh Tipton and James Franco as Julie’s friends) - is the meat of the tale. There’s a deeper meaning at play here and that’s what enables the provocative for the audience to latch onto. The clever jokes and/or skit-like situations the cast is placed in from time-to-time is just a welcomed bonus that hits the right note nearly every time.
Overall, Warm Bodies does get by on the fact that is feels different, and therefore, allows one to look over its minor flaws (similar to one of the main themes found in the flick). Having said that, it functions better than most flicks that are afraid to venture out into new territory, and, it is quite engaging all-around.
Warm Bodies is rated PG-13 and opens in the Tampa Bay market on Friday.