‘Warm Bodies’ a fun zom-rom-com
Like any father, director George Romero is proud of his progeny
– in this case, zombies.
The celebrated director of “Night of the Living Dead” and kickstarter of one of cinema’s most popular horror subgenres, Romero explained his fascination with these particular beasties.
“I … have always liked the monster-within idea,” he said. “I like the zombies being us. Zombies are the blue-collar monsters.”
Edgar Wright’s brilliant “Shaun of the Dead” took this idea and ran – or, at least, shambled – with it, breathing fresh life into a genre that was becoming increasingly stale.
And the new zombie romantic comedy (or zom-rom-com), “Warm Bodies,” follows suit, playing up on the blue-collar aspect, but with a unique twist – telling the story from a zombie’s point of view.
Many of us have felt like zombies at one point or another, minus (hopefully) the whole brain-eating cannibalism thing, shuffling through the drudgery of day-to-day routine, waiting for a special something to bring us out of the funk. But sometimes, one has to actively seek that something, and such is the story of R (Nicholas Hoult, “X-Men: First Class”), an undead shambler looking for purpose in unlife.
Unlike most of his undead brethren, R can still think, as he wanders aimlessly in the abandoned airport he and the others call home. What was life like before the zombie apocalypse, he wonders. What was his name? What did he do for a living? What does his best friend, M (Rob Corddry, “Hot Tob Time Machine”), really mean in their grunt-centric conversations? And most importantly, what is their purpose?
After he and some cohorts encounter (and devour) a group of human scavengers, R thinks he finds the answer in one of the survivors – Julie (Teresa Palmer, “I Am Number Four”), the beautiful daughter of human resistance leader Grigio (John Malkovich, “Being John Malkovich”).
By managing to utter a few choice words, he secrets Julie away from the horde to his own private abode, a derelict jetliner, in which he stores all his collected knick-knacks and souvenirs from a world long gone.
Realizing R is not like the others, Julie becomes fascinated with him, and they start to hit it off. It’s not long until R feels something he hasn’t felt since the world went to hell – the pangs of love, and with them, a heartbeat. Furthermore, the fondness is strangely mutual, which won’t bode well with Julie’s father.
Could genuinely positive feelings be the cure to the outbreak, or is it something unique with R? The unlikely duo soon finds out after leaving the relatively safety of the airplane into the certain danger of the undead masses.
Unlike most zombie movies, “Warm Bodies” doesn’t aim for scares, which likely won’t bode well with die-hard zombie fans. It does, however, deliver plenty of laughs, many from director Jonathan Levine’s (“50/50”) loving references to the genre.
In that same sense, “Warm Bodies” doesn’t center on action, but rather the forbidden – and often funny – love story, a la “Romeo and Juliet” (R and Julie, get it?), between its two protagonists, with zombies and survivors standing in for the Montagues and Capulets, even throwing in a balcony scene for good measure.
At the same time, though, the sense of conflict seems almost like an afterthought (as does an unfortunately underused Malkovich), as if Levine and company were too caught up with their love interests’ curious chemistry to pose anything that seems like a real threat. This is the zombie apocalypse, after all.
But “Warm Bodies” is just fresh and different enough to make that very complaint seem like an afterthought, especially in a time when zombie movies are a dime a dozen and lacking the very thing its creatures crave – brains.
“Warm Bodies,” rated PG-13 for zombie violence and some language, is playing at Regal Cinema 7. For show times, visit http://www.mountaintimes.com/movies.