Nicholas Hoult plays R, the leading man of this movie who falls in love with the pretty Julie (Teresa Palmer). Sadly, the odds are against their love blooming because R’s friends aren’t usually the friendliest of folk and Julie’s father (John Malkovich) certainly won’t approve of her new male friend. It’s not that R is a bad person, but he IS a zombie. In fact, R has developed feelings for Julie after eating her boyfriend’s brains, which is never the best start for any relationship.
Warm Bodies is NOT a horror movie, which I’m sure many horror fans are already aware of, but I thought I’d better make that clear right now. It’s also not a very funny movie, despite my hopes (I knew going into the film that it wasn’t a horror, but I was hoping for some laughs). What we have here is a teen romance in which one of the protagonists just happens to be a zombie. Apparently, many people have read the book and found it surprisingly enjoyable. Sadly, what may work in the book just falls flat in the movie. That’s not just my opinion as a horror-craving, older male audience member. Even my wife turned to me as the end credits rolled and said: “I’m sorry, that was really bad.”
Directed by Jonathan Levine, who also wrote the script based on the book by Isaac Marion, it’s hard to think of ways in which the movie could have been improved, despite the fact that it just doesn’t work. I’m willing to concede that it might work for the target audience of teen girls, but even then there are a number of problems. First, zombies (even ones that look like Nicholas Hoult) aren’t sexy. Second, a zombie that speaks, albeit in very simple words and phrases, just doesn’t really work after the first few moments explain how little they do actually speak (a few noises and occasional individual words – it might have worked in The Return Of The Living Dead, but this isn’t The Return Of The Living Dead). Third, even if you’re aiming for an audience of female teens I can’t believe that it would be considered a good move to make the film quite SO bloodless. Of course I didn’t expect brains being chomped and headshots in every scene, but I did think they would try to keep SOME of the stuff inherent to any zombie movie onscreen. That’s not really the case, with one minor exception.
The sad thing is that I really like the work from the cast here. I’m a fan of both Nicholas Hoult and Teresa Palmer so was more than happy to see them in their leading roles. Palmer is a likable gal and Hoult doesn’t do too bad in zombie mode. Rob Corrdry is also surprisingly good as one of the shambling undead. John Malkovich is sadly underused, but Analeigh Tipton does okay with her role and Dave Franco is perfectly fine. The fact that none of them are well served by the script or execution of the material is a real shame.
The first 5-10 minutes held promise, they really did. I was thinking that everything might be okay. I knew it wouldn’t be a movie tailor-made for my tastes, but I might still get some enjoyment from it. Sadly, things quickly nosedived. It does enough to stop it from being lumped in with the worst of the worst, but it really fails to do anything to rise above complete blandness.
DIRECTOR: JONATHAN LEVINE
WRITER: JONATHAN LEVINE (BASED ON THE NOVEL BY ISAAC MARION)
STARS: NICHOLAS HOULT, TERESA PALMER, ANALEIGH TIPTON, ROB CORRDRY, DAVE FRANCO, JOHN MALKOVICH
RUNTIME: 98 MINS APPROX