Nicholas Hoult is “R” for Romeo in this winning, short and sweet romance concerning those of warm bodies and those of cold. As far as zombie films go, it’s sanitized for younger audiences, but the fun stuff remains.
The ghoulish trademarks of zombiedom are suggested and gore nearly absent. A couple of brain chewing scenes you can tell yourself its hardened oatmeal. Tiny bit of blood. No gore to speak of. Because it’s an adolescent zom-romcom. Different crowd altogether.
Warm Bodies is wisely skewed to the youngsters who may identify with its Romeo the zombie with the dying flesh and handsome face and Juliet (her name is Julie) and their dangerous puppy love. There is a kiss or two, but the thrill, as any teen can tell you, is embarking on a romance with someone your family bans.
In this case Julie’s (Teresa Palmer) father (John Malkovich), is the head of the human military unit assigned to wiping out zombies and their uglier, more dangerous cousins, the boneys, or skeletons. Forbidden love in adolescent circles is hotter than hell.
(But why a skeleton needs to eat human flesh, I don’t know and won’t ask. But they are reptilian in their urge to eat people and I may be wrong on this, zombies. I was busy focusing on young love to worry about the boneys.)
Hoult’s R is a zombie who remains a handsome even in death. He has interesting thoughts but can’t really vocalize. And when during a military attack against his zombie pod, his eyes lock with the teenaged human girl aiming a weapon at him, love hits him; that human emotion reanimates his bosom.
R’s non-existent expression suddenly melts and renders Julie useless, unable to fire the gun. But what she doesn’t know is that just before Cupid’s arrow struck, R had eaten her boyfriend.
Besides staying alive in an abandoned airport where the zombies and boneys live and feed, Julie and R must win the approval of her father, who would rather shoot R in the head than welcome him into his home.
While comparisons have been made, and they are easy to make on paper, Warm Bodies is nothing like the Twilight series. It’s optimistic worldview, gentle satire and sweetness is worlds away from the West Coast monsters who reply on extreme drama, love, threat and doom. Entirely different beasts. This is less sexy and beautiful to look at; Twilight is less humane.
The leads are just as pretty, even though Hoult is caked in movie blood and guts, lacerated with cuts and stitches. Palmer is a natural beauty who looks as though she really is stuck in a post-apocalyptic mess. There’s little emphasis on wardrobe, hair or makeup; she’s oblivious to all that, someone you want on your side in a zombie war, no nonsense. She’s ballsy which you can’t say about anyone, male or female in the Twilight series.
Warm Bodies is from the heart, at its heart. There’s a sense of wonder between the would-be lovers that is appealing and which add to the film’s promise as a date movie for the tweens.
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35mm romantic comedy horror
Written by Jonathan Levine (screenplay), Isaac Marion (novel)
Directed by Jonathan Levine
In theatres now
Runtime: 97 minutes
MPAA: Rated PG-13 for zombie violence and some language