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Warm Bodies

2013 | 98 min | PG-13 | 2.39:1

Warm Bodies


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Theatrical release date

 01 February, 2013
 08 February, 2012

Country of origin

 United States

Box office




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Screenshots from Warm Bodies Blu-ray

Warm Bodies Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, January 31, 2013

Just when the zombie subgenre had seen enough of panicky survivors, the stumbling undead, and doomsday landscapes of ruin, “Warm Bodies” swoops in to save the day, or at least refreshes the concept long enough to get excited about the prospect of watching brain-munchers on the big screen again. Imaginatively directed and wonderfully performed, “Warm Bodies” is a strange hybrid of zombies and Shakespeare, bringing a tilted romantic comedy take on survival horror. The disorientation is bliss, with the effort finding inventive ways to attack the routine, showing amazing ability with a challenging tonal juggling act few filmmakers could pull off.

After a worldwide disaster, the planet has been overrun with the undead, with stalking zombies circulating familiar areas, on the prowl for fresh brains. R (Nicholas Hoult) is a sensitive monster lost in thought during his laps around an airport, trying to reconcile his urge to feed with the faint flicker of life left within him. Meeting Julie (Teresa Palmer) during an assault from nearby human survivors, R’s soul blossoms, finding himself overwhelmed with emotions he’s long forgotten. Hoping to protect her from his hungry zombie brethren, R and Julie end up bonding, developing feelings for each other despite his non-living status and her commitments to a zombie-slaughter military group, overseen by her ruthless father, Grigo (John Malkovich). Fighting the odds, R struggles to remain with Julie, facing trouble from a group of Bonies, the next skeleton stage of zombies, who gather to devour the humans after discovering R’s flowering sensitivities, which extend to the rest of the his kind, including pal M (Rob Corddry).

“Warm Bodies” is an adaptation of the 2011 novel by Isaac Marion, brought to the screen by writer/director Jonathan Levine, who was last seen pulling off a miracle shot with the cancer comedy “50/50.” The helmer’s gifts with balancing the sweet and sour return with this odd picture, which requires a skillful push of sugary reassurance to combat the inherent unease of yet another zombie story. Here, the ghouls are just like regular folk, only lost to the ravages of a killer plague that turned Average Joes into flesh-eating residents, some still mindlessly clinging to the job they left behind. R is a member of the undead, only his mind races with thought, reflecting on a former life he can’t remember and the condition of his fellow zombies, finding communication nearly impossible. He has the consciousness but no living tissue to communicate it, making him a particularly conflicted man who assumes he was unemployed during his living days since he wears a hoodie. Funny guy too.

“Warm Bodies” needs that sense of humor to survive. Working with a PG-13 rating, a modest budget, and romantic elements, it’s a herculean task to inject pleasantries into dark material. After all, these zombies do eat brains, only here the gray matter is an edible memory chip allowing R to access poignant human experiences, which, in the story, means gobbling up Julie’s tentative boyfriend, Perry (Dave Franco), living vicariously through his victim. If it sounds impenetrably gloomy, I assure you “Warm Bodies” is actually quite touching, despite scenes where R carefully snacks on brain chunks like a junkie only doing a line of coke a day to savor the experience. Marion deftly manipulates zombie tropes into new areas of discovery, treating the foundations of the subgenre as a way to explore human nature via the undead, finding R aching to return to his old self, using Julie’s feminine radiance as a pathway to rebirth, much to the confusion of those who’ve dedicated their lives to wiping out the monster plague.

Levine keeps “Warm Bodies” accessible with playful screenwriting that accentuates R’s self-consciousness surrounding his tattered zombie style and his propensity for staring. He also has an ace up his sleeve with Hoult, who emits a rich feel of life and love from behind ghoulish make-up, while showing impressive chemistry with Palmer, who’s a treat as the tough but understanding Julie. The couple is fun to watch, observing the ice thaw as the zombie is desperate to prove his humanity through an extensive vinyl collection (though the director deserves a spanking for introducing so many great soundtrack cuts, but never letting a single one play out for very long) and gradually coherent grunts. “Warm Bodies” even goes as far as to replicate the balcony scene from inspiration “Romeo and Juliet,” a tricky, self-aware move that Levine executes with grace, adding to the fun factor of the feature. There’s a substantial sense of personality and vulnerability to the movie that helps to secure its tonal tightrope walk, alleviating discomfort with the premise by making all the troubled characters captivating.

The Bonies subplot is more of an excuse for “Warm Bodies” to find a climax than an organic development of conflict, providing the picture with a shoot-em-up conclusion that’s not very interesting. The weirdness spread around here is best served through intimacy, watching zombie-meets-girl antics up close and personal, inspecting the oddity with a surprisingly open heart and a crisp sense of humor.

Starring: Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer (I), John Malkovich, Dave Franco, Analeigh Tipton, Rob Corddry
Director: Jonathan Levine

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