Feb 04 2013

Unreal Movie Review: Warm Bodies

Published by at 12:00 pm under Movies,Reviews

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It was hard to find a pair of non-rolling eyes when the concept of Warm Bodies was first said out loud. A zombie romantic comedy? Either it’s an earnest, poorly thought out attempt to capitalize on the combined popularity of zombies and Twilight, or it’s a joke, plain and simple, and will probably be of “Scary Movie 6″ quality at best.

As it turns out, the films is neither. It’s based on a book by Isaac Marion that examines a question that few, if any, zombie stories ever bother to address. What if zombies could become human again?

There’s always talk of a cure, but no one ever actually finds one. Maybe they were looking in all the wrong places, maybe all the zombies needed was to be treated a little bit…human again.

That’s the core concept behind Warm Bodies, a film that can be officially declared as another zombie comedy success in the wake of new era classics like Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland. But this film isn’t about the comedic decapitating of the living dead. With a PG-13 rating, there’s little blood at all.

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Just one little drop on his shirt there.

Rather we’re put in the shoes of one of the undead, a young zombie named R….something (Nicholas Hoult). He can’t remember, so R it is. Through internal narration, we hear what it’s like to be a zombie, to shuffle around aimlessly without the ability to communicate. R has a friend named M (Rob Corddry), but the extent of their conversations are maybe one word at best. “Hungry,” in one case.

The film breaks the bounds of traditional zombie lore by allowing R to speak. At first he can only manage a word or two, but from his internal thoughts, we realize that he’s got a fully functioning brain. He just can’t express that, and still has an uncontrollable hunger for human flesh.

One fine day R is wandering around with his zombie posse when he comes across a ground of human survivors. His pack attacks, and both sides take loses, with R ending up feasting on the brains of a young man named Perry (Dave Franco). Here we learn another tip about zombies in this universe. When you eat brains, you get to live through some of that person’s memories like you’re taking a psychotropic drug. As R munches on Perry’s cerebral cortex, he meets Julie, the boy’s girlfriend who happens to be a few feet away, frozen in terror.

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“Act unnatural.”

It instills R with a desire to protect Julie (Teresa Palmer), and from his internal monologue, we learn of his developing crush on her. He smears zombie goop on her and escorts her safely back to zombie HQ at the local airport. There, they both discover that as their relationship grows, so does R’s ability to become vaguely human again.

Zombie purists may not appreciate the film because of its many egregious violations of traditional zombie rules. R has a functioning brain (albeit with a bit of memory loss), learns to speak rather quickly and collects and plays records in his airplane bedroom. Dawn of the Dead this not, and in truth, few of the zombies even look all that decrepit. Most just seem like they just woke up after long night of partying.

But that all plays into the central idea of the film. This concept that the world can be saved through love, not bullets. It’s cheesy sure, but the film is funny, and has some genuine emotion to it. It’s a fresh look at a world we thought we knew at this point, and the only zombie film I’ve seen that dares to do something truly different with the concept.

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“Sooo, any girls in your life?”

The film owes much to its director Jonathan Levine, who is quite adept at finding the heart in deadly situations as he did with his previous cancer comedy, 50/50. And Nicholas Hoult is simply fantastic as R, somehow managing to have great comedic timing despite his limited vocabulary. It’s hard work creating a zombie a girl might actually have a crush on, but Hoult is more than up to the task, blending scary and adorable using just the right proportions.

It’s just nice to see something different out of a genre that’s being done to death at the moment (no pun intended). No, it might not meet your daily serving of gore quota, but it’s a pretty fantastic little film that may end up warming your own human heart a little bit.

4 out of 5 stars





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8 responses so far

  • http://PS Jake

    Not having seen the movie I can’t agree or disagree with your review but I have to say that everything you said got me excited about this movie that I would have, otherwise, let go under my radar

  • Jon

    Just caught this movie yesterday with a lady friend. Not only can I vouch for it being a fantastic little film, but I also came to the realization shortly afterward that it’s one of the best “date” movies ever made. A strange sort of horror/rom-com hybrid that works on both levels – mildly frightening and intense when it wants to be, yet hits you right in the feels at other times.

    The only thing that bothered me is R’s internal monologue. For some reason, the idea that the zombies still have fully functioning brains but lack the motor skills to properly express themselves irks me a bit. Perhaps because I feel like the transformation back to human is less significant if it’s primarily a physical one. I would have preferred to think of it as if R retained some basic thoughts and emotions, and the narration acted as a translation of those thoughts into something a bit more viewer-friendly. Unfortunately, the specificity of some of his thoughts seemed to disallow this interpretation.

  • Diarmuid212

    Loved the movie. Went to it with my wife, and all my friends made fun of us thinking it would be retarded, but we thought it was hilarious and great.

  • JessKitty

    I saw it today with my husband. While I’m still afraid that this is the start to eventually making Zombies as “misunderstood” and “emo” as vampires have become, the movie itself was good. I liked R, I liked him a lot more than I thought I would. I do agree with Jon though, that the idea that zombies were still perfectly okay in the head, that it was just a physical problem, was a little off putting. I think the film tried to make us think that R was something special among Zombies, but I don’t think they quite pulled that off.

  • BeardedTeach

    Is it an adaptation of Romeo and Juliet? R for Romeo, M for Mercutio, and Julie is Juliet?

    • http://www.unrealitymag.com Paul Tassi

      There was a balcony scene….

      And they were two different groups that hated each other…

      Dagnabit. How did I miss that

  • Emanon

    @Bearded

    Also Julie’s best friend is a nurse. And she goes by the name Julie Cabarnet (3-syllables, starts with C, sounds like Capulet). And her boyfriend that R eats is named Perry (Paris).

  • Feek

    The idea that someone has a fully functioning brain but is unable to communicate is one of the few things that actually has an analogue in real life.

    For instance, I can have fully coherent phone text conversations with my brilliant autistic son, but he’s completely unable to communicate anything other than one or two word sentences by talking.

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