With a great mix of horror, humor, and romance, Warm Bodies is a fun new spin on the classic tale of “Romeo & Juliet.”
Upon first glance, you might look at Warm Bodies and think, “Ugh. Another zombie movie?” And under most circumstances, you’d be right. The zombie fad may be near its end. But as long as a film can offer a fresh take on old material, it can work. And fortunately, Warm Bodies does just that.
First of all, it tells the story of R from a first person perspective. While most zombies are portrayed as thoughtless monsters, this story takes you inside of the head of a zombie. You hear what he’s thinking as he kills a person, his thoughts about his pathetic state, his thoughts about other zombies, etc. It’s a great new take on a classic movie monster. The other great thing it does is take the classic story of “Romeo & Juliet” and throws a modern zombie twist on it. The Montague family members are now zombies. The Capulets are the surviving humans. R is, of course, Romeo and Julie is Juliet. I was well over halfway through the film before I had this realization and even then it took them doing an amusing version of the balcony scene to make it blatantly obvious to me. As soon as the scene happens, you could hear the lightbulbs going off among audience members. The film also has some fairytale elements as Julie is the beauty and R is the beast. All of this combined together makes for a fun new take on the zombie genre.
Director Jonathan Levine manages to hit the tone pitch perfect with Warm Bodies. There’s plenty of comedy here, but there’s an equal amount of drama as well. There’s a great love story between R and Julie, but there’s plenty of horror and zombie gore. Somehow Levine manages to balance all of these elements together and avoid falling squarely into one realm or another. It never turns into zombie parody, but it never takes itself too seriously either. The end result is a crowd pleasing film and a great date movie. Guys will love the action and horror while girls will love the romance and engaging relationships. There’s something here for everyone.
The cast of Warm Bodies is excellent. Nicholas Hoult (X-Men: First Class) plays R. Much of his performance is purely physical with little or no dialogue. But he conveys a lot with his zombie body language. Throw in his witty narration on top of his performance and it’s a great combination. This also seems to be a breakout role for Teresa Palmer as Julie. Best known for The Sorcerer’s Apprentice and I Am Number Four, she really gets the spotlight here. She’s tough, pretty, and you believe her transition from fear of R to caring for him. She ultimately has good chemistry with Hoult. The cast is rounded out by Analeigh Tipton as Nora, Rob Corddry as R’s zombie friend M, and Dave Franco as Perry.
Warm Bodies also has a fun soundtrack. You’ll hear well-placed bits of Bruce Springsteen’s “Hungry Heart,” Scorpions’ “Rock You Like A Hurricane,” and more. They feature everyone from Bob Dylan to M83 and Delta Spirit. It’s an eclectic mix that works like the movie itself.
I don’t have much to criticize about Warm Bodies. If I had to nitpick, I’d say the ending was a little convenient. I can’t discuss it more without getting into spoilers, but the film is resolved in a nice and neat bow that may put off some. It requires you to believe in a bit of fairytale magic that may be a bit of a stretch for some people. I’d also say John Malkovich is a little flat as Julie’s father Grigio. He’s supposed to be emotionally distant from his daughter, but you do start to wonder what another actor might have done in the role. Finally, the CG of the “Bonies” is a bit of a mixed bag. They are skeletal zombies who have deteriorated so far that there’s almost nothing left of them. In some scenes, they’re as scary and frightening as you might hope. In other scenes they look very CG, especially when they are running. But it is ultimately passable and you’re so invested in the characters of R and Julie that you ignore it and move on.
Warm Bodies is a fun surprise in a time when movies are typically dumped to die early deaths. It is entertaining for wide audiences and a great date movie. If you like Zombieland, The Walking Dead or romantic comedies, then this is a film you’ll want to check out.