Vampire love stories are so last year.
Warm Bodies gives audiences another teenage supernatural romance…only this time with zombies. A zom-rom-com, if you will.
In yet another reimagining of Romeo and Juliet, Warm Bodies gives us a very original take on the tale of two star-crossed lovers – a flesh-eating zombie and a warm-blooded human.
Misunderstood zombie teenager “R” (for Romeo? Played by Nicholas Hoult) spends his days in a vacant-eyed stupor, shuffling around an abandoned airport. Incapable of sleep, he’s forgotten his name and his past. All he knows is the craving for human flesh, which he incessantly searches for whilst providing voiceover narration for his life in a sarcastic, self-mocking manner.
One day, R and his zombie pals get the munchies and attack a group of humans. Amidst the ensuing carnage, R sees her: a lovely blonde human named Julie (Teresa Palmer). R chows down on the brain of Julie’s boyfriend Perry (Dave Franco), which in the world of Warm Bodies means that R acquires the memories and emotions of the brain’s owner. In this case, R inherits Perry’s affection for Julie, so he suppresses his hunger and saves her life, bringing her to his Boeing 747 home in the hopes that she will see a glimmer of remaining humanity in him. R and Julie’s relationship blossoms as he helps her dodge zombies and dreaded “bonies” (CGI zombies who are completely stripped of their humanity) during their trek to the human camp led by Julie’s father (John Malkovich). As R’s human emotions begin to surface, his cheeks get a little redder, his words become less slurred, and his heart starts beating again. Despite his returning humanity, can R and Julie ever be together?
Warm Bodies offers up some genuinely funny moments thanks to the mixture of mismatched conventional storytelling devices from both zombie movies and romantic-comedies. To spoil any humorous moments would be a disservice. The writing is quite clever and Nicholas Hoult gives a convincing zombie performance as R. R’s inner-monologue throughout the movie works well as a narrative device, emphasizing the disconnect between R’s dead-eyed, grunting zombie exterior and the perceptive, sarcastic R that the audience gets to know.
While the clever writing and good acting give the movie a pulse, some of the secondary characters don’t get their due in the movie’s running time. John Malkovich gives an earnest performance as Julie’s father, but the character’s backstory and motivations for his intense zombie hatred is skimmed over and merely hints of a character that would have been interesting to explore in greater depth.
One of the most disappointing parts for me was the fact that zombies can apparently inherit memories and emotions from the brains of the humans they eat, but this was not explored fully, being used in only a couple early scenes in order for R to get to “know” Julie through Perry’s memories. I thought that as a storytelling device, it had a lot more potential.
The action sequences fail to live up to zombie movie standards, dialing back on blood and guts to earn that coveted PG-13 rating that makes a rom-com more marketable. The climatic showdown of “bonies” vs. humans and zombies ended too quickly, with most of bonies’ ultimate defeat described briefly in an epilogue voiceover. And while the ending was happy, I thought it was too “heart-warming” (forgive the pun) and simplistic for what is partially a post-apocalyptic zombie movie.
Warm Bodies keeps the laughs coming with an original setting and good performances, but has too much rom and com, and not enough zom.