I am not a romantic comedy kind of girl. While many women of the world get excited for the latest Gerard Butler/Jennifer Aniston/Kate Hudson/Josh Duhamel chick flick, I’m usually over to the side giving my condolences to the husbands/boyfriends of these women who will get dragged to these films. I thank God that Matthew McConaughey seems to have extradited himself from this genre temporarily and is now making far more interesting movies. Romantic comedies just aren’t my thing; I find them generally unrealistic and mildly insulting to women. I know that these movies make a ton of cash and are extremely popular, but you are more likely to find me watching the new Die Hard movie this Valentine’s Day than renting The Proposal. I once watched 27 Dresses on a dare from one of my guy friends, who forced to sit through it with his wife, and I was about ready to blow my own brains out 30 minutes in.
Add some zombies to the equation, however, and you have my interest.
Warm Bodies is a zom-rom-com: a zombie romantic comedy that completely reimagines both genres. It puts a different spin on the tired romantic comedy formula and lightens up zombies, who are usually featured in gloomy post-apocalyptic tales of survival. These repurposed stories come together in what I found to be a quirky and charming film.
R (Nicholas Hoult) is a zombie, but a self-aware one. He may be one of the walking dead, but his mind is alive and well. He knows that he is a zombie and he’s having a bit of an existential crisis about it. As he says in his narration, he may eat people’s brains, “but at least I’m conflicted about it.” He and his zombie pals hang out in the abandoned airport, venturing into the mostly abandoned city when they are hungry. It is during one of these treks that R runs into Julie (Teresa Palmer) and her friends on a reconnaissance mission. During the zombie attack, R becomes hopelessly smitten when he sees Julie for the first time, just moments after R kills Julie’s boyfriend (David Franco). R saves Julie and brings her back to the airport; as he falls more in love with her, he begins to heal himself – he slowly recovers some of his more human characteristics, like his ability to communicate beyond moaning and groaning. The other zombies who observe R and Julie also start to regain their humanity. Can Julie forgive R if she finds out that he ate her boyfriend’s brain and will this evolution in the zombie community be enough to stop Julie’s father (JohnMalkovich) and his quest to kill all the zombies?
Warm Bodies is a slyly witty film; a lot of the humor doesn’t come from out and out jokes, but from the observations of R and his struggle to woo the girl that he is in love with. In that regard, the zombie angle only serves to amplify the difficulty of young love; a perfectly alive young man has many of the same issues: being able to talk to a pretty girl and finding that balance between being earnest and cool. Granted, most young men don’t have the guilt of killing the previous suitor of their love interest, but the idea that love makes a person more alive is a pretty universal sentiment. The film is sincere and very sweet, but the zombie elements prevent it from being too over the top. The transition between the two genres keeps either one from feeling stale or played out and keeps the viewer engaged in the story.
Nicholas Hoult gives a wonderfully delightful performance as R; even though he is a zombie, you can’t help but root for him to receive what appears to be an inconceivable happy ending. I would have been content with a movie that was simply R’s wry observations of what it is like to be a member of the undead. He has real chemistry with Teresa Palmer, adding an additional layer of believability to what transpires. Rob Corddry provides some additional comic relief as M, the closest thing that R has to a best friend. The film also smartly relies on music in several scenes; since R is unable to clearly articulate anything to Julie in the beginning, he uses the records he has in his collection to convey his thoughts and feelings. Watching a zombie groan all the time would get boring quickly.
Warm Bodies is a bit of a light-weight film; because it has its feet in two different types of stories, one could argue that despite being enjoyable, it never really amounts to anything substantial. The story is just off-beat enough that it may not appeal to some people. This film could easily become something of a cult classic. I think other zombie mash-ups have done it better; I wouldn’t put Warm Bodies ahead of Shaun of the Dead or Zombieland. However, I do think that Warm Bodies brings something interesting and innovative to the table. I left the theater with a smile on my face, having basically being tricked into enjoying a fairly conventional love story, albeit with a twist. Zombie meets girl, Zombie gets girl, Zombie loses girl. Can Zombie get girl back?
Warm Bodies may not be a traditional romantic comedy, but I think that it has more appeal because of its unique storytelling. In a lot of ways I think Warm Bodies is a perfect date movie, as it has a little something for everyone. It’s an allegorical love story with a twist. I guarantee that I would have liked 27 Dresses a lot more if someone was trying to eat Katherine Heigl’s brain.
Warm Bodies is currently in theaters.