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'Warm Bodies': Is it a funny zombie send-up or a comedy that never comes to life?

'Warm Bodies' follows a zombie and the living girl with whom he falls in love. 'Warm Bodies' stars Nicholas Hoult and Teresa Palmer.

By Ben KendrickScreen Rant / February 4, 2013

'Warm Bodies' stars Nicholas Hoult as the zombie known as R.

Jonathan Wenk/Summit Entertainment/AP


When it was first announced that 50/50 director Jonathan Levine would helm an adaptation of the novel Warm Bodies many film-fans dismissed the project as Twilight with zombies. Still, anyone familiar with Isaac Marion’s book of the same name knows that the Warm Bodies story and tone could make for a fun (albeit campy) film – playing on traditional “undead” tropes. Unlike similar offerings that are targeted at love-struck teenagers and twenty-somethings, this movie is well-aware of its goofiness and instead of melodramatic romance, Warm Bodies actually uses that absurdity to tackle a larger topic: the power of living.

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Does Levine’s focus, and lack of shirtless heartthrobs, land the film in an awkward middle ground? Where it’s too-lighthearted to please zombie movie lovers and without enough romance to draw-in viewers hoping for the next great supernatural power couple?

Unfortunately, yes but in this case that’s a good thing. Given Levine’s resume (which also includes 2008 favorite, The Wackness), it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Warm Bodies is actually a solid film – held back primarily by overarching consumer backlash against paranormal romance and zombies in Hollywood. On its own terms, Warm Bodies offers a funny and witty twist on living dead mythology without getting too bogged down in drawn-out, and self-indulgent, romance story lines. Some of the film’s larger ideas rely heavily on character cliches and setups that don’t have enough time to develop but Levine moves the proceedings at a steady pace and adds enough charming moments to keep the film alive (even if the romance is just undead).

Warm Bodies centers around living corpse “R” (Nicholas Hoult), who no longer remembers his name or any other details from his “life.” Instead, he shambles around post-apocalyptic America ruminating on the state of his non-life, feeding on flesh, and grunting with his best undead friend “M” (Rob Corddry) at the airport bar. However, when R and his fellow zombies eat a group of still-human scavengers, he becomes captivated by one of the young survivors, Julie (Teresa Palmer). In an effort to save Julie from his zombie brethren, not to mention the terrifying “bonies” (zombies who have given up their humanity entirely), R helps his new-found crush escape and brings her to a secluded area of his home for refuge (in an abandoned airliner). To keep her safe and, selfishly, get to know her better, R hides Julie from the zombies and the bonies for days – supplying her with food and entertainment. Initially repulsed by the situation, Julie begins to trust and care for her protector – causing subtle changes in R and large ramifications for zombies and humans alike.

The setup of the film is absolutely thin – as is the “romance” between R and Julie. There’s no doubt that zombie purists will not approve of convenient changes to undead mythology, viewers will role their eyes at cheesy lines of dialogue, while others will have trouble suspending disbelief in a few underdeveloped character interactions. Yet, moviegoers who can accept the core premise and look past on-the-nose story beats will find that Warm Bodies is actually pretty entertaining and even heart-warming at times. It’s not a particularly smart love story but it makes intelligent use of genuinely likable characters and an endearing plot setup.

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