WARM BODIES (Jonathan Levine, 2013)
WARM BODIES works primarily because it spins both the zombie and the romantic-comedy genre on its heads, and takes a lot of fun with the joyride. Its undead protagonist, who looks like the sixth member of One Direction is easily likable, and when you reference Shakespeare in the midst of a zombie movie it's worth the watch.
The world as we know it has succumbed to its end. Zombies prowl the Earth, while a band of humans in a walled community struggle to survive. The undead outnumber the living. This is where we meet "R" (Nicholas Hoult), who doesn't remember his name, so he calls himself R because his name sounded like it started with an "R". We hear his thoughts (because zombies cannot speak, they just snarl) and through this voice over- sometimes sentimental, oftentimes funny that we are able to navigate the progression of the plot. R dwells on the tediousness of his daily existence, and unlike any other zombie he appreciates good music and wants more out of his... well, we cannot say life, can we?
The plot thickens as R together with a horde of other zombies meet a group of humans, and this is where he gets smitten with Julie (Teresa Palmer). But wait, there's more! Something inevitable happens, that R cannot tell Julie, and for the duration of the movie is left untold. The story gets almost near storybook perfection, lest we forget that there is a stinking time bomb waiting to explode any time. How do you think Julie will react once R tells her the big unspeakable secret? The movie leaves this out of the question.
R started feeling something extraordinary upon seeing Julie, and he saves her from other zombies by safeguarding her inside a rundown airplane. At one point, they drive in a sports car in an (almost) empty hangar, which is fun and all, but why didn't Julie take the opportunity to escape, since she will be escaping from R's custody later in the movie?
Nicholas Hoult and Teresa Palmer make an odd but quirky pair. Hoult is able to maximize the weirdness of his character's situation to immense comic results, while Palmer although a generic damsel in distress is still eye candy.
In a later scene that nods towards Shakespeare, R visits Julie and Julie looks down her balcony, Romeo and Juliet style. In a much later scene, the two jump onto a pool of water to escape the merciless bonies (zombies who have torn their flesh off, and are extremely grim-looking). I guess they took "falling in love" literally.
Rob Corddry is ever-reliable as R's undead best pal, M. Every formula love story has a default best friend character, and M is that best friend. On the opposing side there needed to be a greater force that divides the lovers, and what greater force can outrank John Malkovich as Julie's father? Malkovich is amazingly calm here (remember how outrageous he was in BURN AFTER READING?) but he's still the man of authority. He calls the shots. The star-crossed lovers (or life-crossed lovers?) needed his approval. Come to think of it, WARM BODIES is a zombie romcom movie patterned after Shakespeare.
The movie is fun, escapist, and oftentimes hilarious with its snappy one-liners, rising above similar films due to its campiness and decision to leave the unnecessary drama out of the equation (which is exactly the reason why NEW MOON is such a hard film to sit through). It works on the premise that human connection may in fact trigger the undead to be human again by way of their emotions, and however farfetched, in this movie the idea magically works.