Warm, Cold, Dead, Whatever
Main Cast: Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer
Director: Jonathan Levine
Zombies were never my thing as a kid. But I have to admit that I’m digging the current mass of zombie apocalypse media pouring into the mainstream. From The Walking Dead, with its serious survivors, all the way to Warm Bodies, with its witty teen zombie.
Warm Bodies is the story of R (Nicholas Hoult from About a Boy). Unfortunately, R doesn’t know the rest of his name because R is dead. Walking dead, but dead nonetheless. We meet R as he shuffles around the airport with dozens of other undead folks, occasionally breaking to seek out some human flesh to eat, but mostly shuffling, grunting and carrying on an internal dialogue about the relative suckiness of being a zombie. Once in a while he has a little grunt conversation with his friend M (Rob Corddry), but that’s pretty much it for undead social activity.
On one of their flesh eating trips, R meets a girl, a live girl. How weird, you must be thinking – the undead don’t meet people, they eat people. And you’re right, but not this time – R meets Julie (Teresa Palmer) and has…feelings. Again, that’s weird. He saves Julie from his flesh consuming comrades and the two are set to embark on a peculiar undead/living friendship.
Warm Bodies is zombie teen romance, which is insane. Yet, it works. There are parts that are gross and scary that will appeal to those of us who like our zombie gore, and there are parts that are warm and touching for those of us who like our…warm and touching. A little something for everyone, you could say. Usually, when a movie tries to have something for everyone it ends up with not enough of anything for anyone. Not the case with Warm Bodies. Writer/director Jonathan Levine (who also directed 50/50) creates a really nice balance of decently scary special effects (the completely de-fleshed skeleton zombies are pretty creepy) and witty and sweet humanity. The movie doesn’t make the mistake of taking itself too seriously, which is undoubtedly what saves it from being stupid and sappy (yes, it has its sappy moments, but they aren’t overwhelming).
Nicholas Hoult has gone in 10 years from an engaging child actor to a charming young adult actor. He’s terrific as R, who has almost no actual dialogue and has to do a lot with voice-over narration and the rather limited physicality afforded a zombie. His zombie shuffle is truly enviable. Teresa Palmer has a less interesting role, being cast as a living person, but she does well with the part of Julie. Appropriately freaked out (especially after her boyfriend gets eaten) but also not entirely convinced that her father (John Malkovich – perfect) is completely right about the infected humans being 100% evil. Particularly charming in his small role is Rob Coddry as M, as he slowly evolves from full zombie to supporting R’s friendship with a food source.
Warm Bodies is similar in tone to Shaun of the Dead – not a spoof, but also not really a horror movie. The performances are solid, the special effects are decent and the internal dialogue of R is funny and creative. The premise (from the novel written by Isaac Marion) is interesting and the execution doesn’t mangle it with too many teen hormone moments or too much gore without levity. This isn’t a movie that’s going to change the world, but it’s a thoroughly enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours in a zombie apocalypse. 4 stars out of 5 and a recommendation for anybody who digs The Zombie.