Romeo and Juliet with zombies? Shakespeare must be rolling in his grave. But why not? We not only live in an age where the multiplex screens are perpetually burdened with tales of teenage lovestruck vampires and werewolves, but also one that has the original novels of said films regularly littering the New York Times bestseller list. So, a sweet little story about a girl and a walking corpse. There’s plenty of room for it, methinks. Can a teenage mummy rom-com be far off? But—is Jonathan Levine’s “Warm Bodies” any good? Well, I guess it all depends on just how high your expectations are. Is it as witty and biting as it could be, if for instance it had a sharper script and an ‘R’ rating? Actually, no. But is it kinda fun, kinda sweet, as well as a reasonable way to spend 97 minutes on a rainy day? Sure. So, roll the dice, I guess.
Our narrator is a member of the walking dead. We’ll know him as R(a fine Nicholas Hoult)—because that’s the only letter of his name his zombie brain can remember. R spends his days wandering an abandoned airport with hordes of his fellow flesh-eaters. He even occasionally exchanges grunts and groans with an undead “best friend”—M(an effective Rob Corddry). It appears there has been some sort of zombie apocalypse, and the living people are surviving inside a walled city. That’s where we meet Julie(pretty Teresa Palmer). Her dad, Colonel Grigio(John Malkovich!)leads the zombie resistance with a small, well-trained army. On a routine beyond-the-wall mission to garner medical supplies, Julie and her armed companions are attacked by the undead—including R. Caught by surprise, most of the group is killed and eaten, including Julie’s boyfriend Perry—by R himself. When R first catches sight of Julie fighting off zombies—we witness his supposedly dead heart actually beat. R decides to help Julie escape the attacking undead, and takes her to his “home” that he’s set up in a dilapidated plane on the runway of the airport. As they get to know each other, R eventually starts acquiring some enhanced human attributes, including some limited ability to speak. Is love actually curing this handsome, teenage zombie? And if it is, can it be utilized to help others before Colonel Grigio shoots them all in the head to defend his beautiful daughter?
Hey, if you want a crisper, bloodier walking dead comedy—rent 2004’s “Shaun of the Dead”. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be too painful to give the fitfully entertaining “Warm Bodies” a try. The leads are charming and nice to look at, and there are a mix of pleasures to be had. For instance, you’ll learn that when eating the brains of their victims, the zombies get a little taste of their prey’s former memories. It’s the closest they’ll get to “dreaming”, and it’s the impetus behind R’s falling hard for Julie after gobbling Perry’s grey matter. Also, we witness the most animalistic form of the undead—the dreaded “bonies”. Stripped of all remaining flesh—usually from giving in and eating themselves—they are remorseless devourers. Or as R tells us about his own people-chomping habit, “at least I’m conflicted about it”. You could do far worse than following the adventures of R and Julie(get it?!). And if the Bard of Avon is actually spinning in his coffin over this, it’s actually sort of fitting—isn’t it? Grade: B-