Got brains? Warm Bodies, directed by Jonathan Levine and starring Nicholas Hoult and Teresa Palmer, is a zombie romantic comedy based on the book by Isaac Marion, the creator of the genre that at least seems a bit more heart-warming than the Twilight series.
A lonely and conflicted zombie named “R” (Hoult) lives the life of the living dead in an abandoned airport with his fellow zombies in a post-apocalyptic world. R is conflicted about his diet of human brains, and, much like a pre-apocalyptic cave man, wonders if there isn’t something more to existence then wandering about aimlessly grunting. He fills his airplane-turned-apartment with eclectic tokens of humanity, including an antique collection of old records, which he uses to fill his lonely days with music and meaning.
On the human side of the film’s species spectrum, people are hunkered down inside their city fortification on a constant search for a cure to the zombie infection and a way to combat the spreading attacks of “bonies” (ruthless zombies who have lost all hope and what is left of their souls).
Things start to change when R rescues Julie (Palmer) from a zombie attack on her excursion party. Predictably, as R and Julie are dealing with attacking zombies, things don’t go so well for them. Having eaten the brains of Julie’s boyfriend, R thinks his first date with Julie could have gone a little smoother.
This is, of course, because eating human brains gives zombies flashes of their victims’ memories and emotions which keep them sustained. From eating Julie’s boyfriend’s grey matter, R comes to know more about Julie, with whom he is rapidly falling in love. R then hides her away in his airplane (what’s a lovestruck zombie to do?), where he makes his best efforts to be human. Out of their young love for one another, Julie and R become the key to the cure that starts to reverse the apocalypse, and bodies start warming up.
Warm Bodies is an endearing, albeit quirky story of a love that saves the world. What the script at times lacks in imagination it makes up for with pitch-perfect comedic timing. Hoult’s brilliantly acted awkward tenderness brings his character to life (literally). His face-forward, honest attempts to be acceptable to Julie are touching and reminiscent of all those moments in life when connecting with others (especially romantically) can be nerve-racking and beautiful at the same time.
Palmer’s performance as Julie, while not as deep and multidimensional as Hoult’s (after all, she’s only human), is one of a tough chick with underlying sensitivity as her feelings develop into a steadfast belief in R.
“Warm Bodies avoids the potential clichés of its genre by utilizing a fresh approach,” praises Cole Christine, an independent Maine filmmaker.
The 80s retro-vibe soundtrack to the film is catchy and fun, with such songs as John Waite’s 1984 classic Missing You. The ghoulish zombie make-up is not over-the-top, and the level of gore, while necessarily present, is minimal.
Although special effects proliferate throughout the film, Warm Bodies, unlike many new movie releases, doesn’t over-emphasize production values; it focuses instead on the storyline and character relationships. The supporting actors maintained standards on par with the leads, including Julie’s likable best friend Nora (Analeigh Tipton) and her militaristic father, played by John Malkovich.
“I thought it was a really cute twist on Romeo and Juliet,” remarked Lauren Halligan, a Lewiston High School student.
“It was really funny,” says Angel Gendron, another student at the high school. “There were a lot of ‘awww!’ moments, but it was also a movie guys could go see without being dragged along by their girlfriends.”
Warm Bodies is not a Twilight-style chick-flick. It has elements of romance, comedy, and action films all wrapped up into a funky, zombie-ish message of finding love in odd places and using it to rescue humanity from the brink. This zombie reel is a feel-good movie for everyone.