Title: Warm Bodies
Genre(s): Comedy, Horror, Romance
Director(s): Jonathan Levine
Release Year: 2013
Rotten Tomatoes: 78%
One of the most heart-warming films I’ve seen in recent memory is Jonathan Levine’s 50/50, a somewhat uplifting tale of a young adult diagnosed with cancer. How do you top that? Making a heart-warming film about a young adult diagnosed with death seems like the way to go. Especially if you recognize that it’s the most absurd premise and shouldn’t be treated as anything more than a cheesy endeavor. Levine knows what he’s doing, and Warm Bodies is anything but serious. It’s not an amazing film, but it’s an experience that is worth having had, regardless of its flaws, inconsistencies and mediocre performances all across the board. Levine has managed to make me care about a zombie, more than I’ve cared about any relationship Bella of Twilight has gotten herself in.
In a post-apocalyptic world (it doesn’t matter how it happened, you’re not here for a serious film, remember?), a zombie (Nicholas Hoult) wanders an airport, trying to remember his name through painfully cheesy narration. Right off the bat, you know to throw all your previous knowledge about zombies out the window, as these aren’t your typical zombies. When Julie and her friends are out to get medicinal supplies, they’re ambushed and attacked by zombies. R (the name given to Hoult’s character by Julie) attacks Julie’s boyfriend (Dave Franco), and takes his brain to eat later, because the brain gives you the emotions and feelings of the person who had it. So when Julie starts falling in love with R, is it him she’s falling in love with, or the re-embodiment of Julie’s now-deceased boyfriend? What begins to happen because of this relationship is that all the zombies begin changing back into humans at an alarming pace. And in that comes the problems that plague Warm Bodies from ever being something more than just a fun time.
If zombies are turning back to human, why are they all doing it? Is it because when one zombie falls in love, every zombie falls in love? What about the ‘bonies’, which serve as villains to the zombies? Are they simply past a point of being able to be saved? I understand that the movie wants me to take several leaps and suspend my disbelief almost entirely, but to what end? There’s not even a consistency within the zombies themselves as they move their joints with no problems at all, and then complain they have problems moving their joints. Or when they move slow, when we all know they can run because they did that moments before. It’s not enough to just make the audience laugh here and there, you have to also try and get the audience to buy in to the concept you’re presenting.
As I previously mentioned, the relationship between R and Julie is actually done well, and though there are an innumerable cheesy references to Romeo and Juliet, this is one of the more engrossing relationships of late, perhaps solely because of its unique premise. The way memories are interwoven with the rest of the story in Warm Bodies is well-done and they add a personal layer to the narrative. Unfortunately, what would have really helped is if the cast was able to elevate the picture to something a little more memorable. Nicholas Hoult is good as R, but he is simply playing a zombie who can only have emotions every once in a while. Teresa Palmer is mediocre, but does a slightly better job than Kristen Stewart has been able to do, ever. The most criminal waste of an actor here though, is John Malkovich, who plays Julie’s father, and never at all gets to play John Malkovich. His character isn’t even remotely interesting, or all that intelligent to be honest, so why Malkovich was chosen for the role is beyond me.
If Warm Bodies took itself seriously at least a little bit of the time, I might be able to get behind it more. Instead, what I was left with was a movie that I might see again when I need some cheap laughs. It has the elements of a really fun movie, even having some cool action scenes and one hell of a soundtrack. Plus, there’s a relationship in there that I genuinely cared about, as surprising as that is. If only the movie wasn’t forced into the most jarring, and cheesy narration possible, as well as being a very inconsistent movie overall. The plot holes are the film’s biggest problem though, but if you’re able to just sit back and enjoy yourself, there’s something in the movie that will make you want to come back to this world. Hopefully that world is a little more fleshed out (no pun intended) when it’s revisited.