Nicholas Hoult plays a rotting Romeo while Teresa Palmer plays a kick-ass, gun-toting Juliet in the zombie romantic comedy Warm Bodies. Based on the bestselling book by Isaac Marion, Warm Bodies delivers up a different breed of zombies - and one pale-skinned walking dead heartthrob who doesn't seem to need a pulse to send living, breathing women's hearts racing.
Vampires have gotten all the attention when it comes to romantic and sexy undead creatures, but who says zombies can't be equally as yummy. Hoult's 20-something 'R' likely won't ever attain the popularity of Edward from the Twilight series, but he gives that pasty-faced sparkling creature a run for his money.
Zombies have seen a surge in popularity in films and TV (The Walking Dead and Brad Pitt's upcoming action film, World War Z, are helping the zombie cause), but those zombies are more of the traditional variety. They want to eat you. Period. Whereas, Warm Bodies' hero zombie - 'R' - wants to keep you safe. He'll play you classic tunes on his record player, beat up his fellow zombies who try to eat your brains, and tuck you in at night on his airplane filled with knick-knacks that evoke the days prior to the rise of the zombies.
Warm Bodies uses voice-over narration to let us in on what R's thinking but is unable to articulate. His grunts sound occasionally like words, but in his head he's a master of nuance and wit. He calls himself R but doesn't really remember his actual name - which may or may not have begun with that particular letter - and he has no clear memory of how he or his kind came into existence. R knows that now it's a eat-humans-or-be-killed-trying type of world, even though he doesn't really want to murder the living. It's necessary to survive; there's something inside him that drives him to eat flesh and so therefore he does it.
In a strange twist, when he consumes a brain, he has access to that person's memories. This becomes key to the story as one day while hunting humans, he and his zombie buddies stumble upon a group led by Perry (Dave Franco). Perry's girlfriend Julie (Teresa Palmer) is part of a ragtag group on a mission outside of the walled-off safe zone, and when R lays eyes on Julie it's a matter of love at first sight. Unrequited love at first sight, that is.
For some reason, R doesn't want to kill and eat Julie. He wants to protect her. Pushing out the words "keep safe," he smears Julie so she'll smell dead and brings her back to his zombie community at the local airport. There, he begins to force more and more words out until he's nearly forming full sentences. Julie is, of course, freaked out by her zombie protector yet - reluctantly - she comes to trust this strange creature who seems more humane than some humans.
The Bottom Line:
Warm Bodies could have gone wrong in oh-so-many ways. Too gory, too silly, too sweet, too whatever...you fill in the blank. But instead writer/director Jonathan Levine (50/50, The Wackness) gets the tone exactly right. He remains faithful to Marion's book yet adds his own quirky touches to this zombiefied Beauty and the Beast story, delivering a film with heart, soul, humor, and an unexpected sweetness.
Levine backs the zombie love story with the perfect mix of tracks by artists including Guns N' Roses, Bruce Springsteen and John Waits, and while he doesn't skimp on the gore (these are brain-eating zombies after all) it's used more for humor than horror.
Levine also found the perfect R and Julie in Nicholas Hoult and Teresa Palmer. Hoult's boyishly charming good-looks shine through his zombieness, and women will understand why Julie falls for him so fast. Plus, Hoult mastered the zombie shuffle and holds his body in such a way that he completely pulls off being a member of the walking dead. Palmer, one of the most underrated actresses of her age group, nails the part of a survivor who's been through hell yet manages to keep positive about the world. Julie's tough, smart, and independent, and Palmer brings a warmth to the role that wasn't quite so apparent in the book.
Warm Bodies is one of the first must-sees of 2013. It's also - sorry Shaun of the Dead - the best zombie romantic comedy and one of the funniest films of recent years (with or without zombies). And, perhaps more surprisingly, Warm Bodies is the perfect date movie.
Warm Bodies was directed by Jonathan Levine and is rated PG-13 for zombie violence and some language.
Theatrical Release: February 1, 2013