"Warm Bodies" -- movie review
Release date: Feb. 1, 2013
Written and directed by: Jonathan Levine
Every great couple has a great story about how they met and fell in love. The best love stories always start with a couple overcoming obstacles to prove that true love will win overall. Perhaps it's an age difference or a social class difference or maybe your parents hate each other and have declared you can never be together -- or maybe you're dead and the other person is alive. Yes, apparently it is possible for love to form between a flesh eating zombie and live member of the fairer sex.
In "Warm Bodies", the latest from writer and director Jonathan Levine ("50/50"), we are introduced to a world that is swarming with the walking dead. In this world, there are two types of zombies. There are the mindless, slow moving zombies that still look human if you can look past the rotting flesh. Then there are the "bonies", the zombies that have lost their human look because the skin has decayed to the point that you look like some sort of skeletal demon monster. Stay away from those. Well, stay away from both, but especially stay away from the bonies.
Very early we are introduced to R (Nicholas Hoult). He's a zombie. He can't remember his first name anymore, only that it may have began with R. In fact, R has lost most of his memories from his own life as they have faded in the time since his death, which he can't remember either. Besides eating the living, R likes to head to the makeshift home he's made for himself in a grounded airplane. He listens to music, the only thing he remembers loving in his life. Quickly this movie establishes a connection between the living and the dead and a longing for personal connection and love.
There are a few survivors of the zombie apocalypse, most of whom remain holed up in the city, which has been barricaded to keep the walking dead out. This town is run by John Malkovich, who routinely sends groups in search of supplies. His go to team includes his daughter Julie (Teresa Palmer) and her boyfriend Perry (Dave Franco). When a mission goes wrong, her team is swarmed but she is shockingly rescued by R. Just by spending some intimate moments with Julie, he is able to jump start the human emotional juices again, which kick starts the drive of the movie and raises some very existential questions along the way. It's never heavy handed but neither is the snark and silliness, giving the movie a very enjoyable balance.
There is no need to critique the acting that is on display here. That isn't to say the movie is filled with bad acting, but most of the characters are dead so they're not really expected to deliver much on emotion. Hoult, who has been seen in "X-Men: First Class" and "About a Boy" is engaging to watch even though his zombie status leaves him little room to show any emotion. Despite the fact he spends most of his on-screen time staring blankly and grunting his dialogue, somehow, someway, he manages to establish a bizarre chemistry with Palmer.
The film works because, for the most part, director Levine never takes the material too seriously, yet he never allows it to stray into the absurd and ridiculous. It's a miracle. On the surface, there is no reason this movie should work the way it does. By choosing to dial back on the blood, gore and violence, Levine allows the story to breath and it ends up raising a lot of interesting questions about life and death. Especially in today's world, where many of us have become technology dependent zombies, it forces the audience to think about what makes us human.
"Warm Bodies" is an enjoyable trip to the movies. It's funny, sure, but most of all it has heart. It will make you think a little bit about what separates the living from the dead, besides the obvious -- death. Yes, it's a zombie love story, but there is so much to the movie than what lies on the surface. Allow yourself to be entertained, to be asked to think about the connections you have in your life and just be happy you have someone to share it with even though there may be evil lurking around every corner hoping to eat your soul and strip you of your humanity.
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