'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.
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Nicholas Hoult literally shambles a fine line as R – in a performance that could have easily strayed into Razzie Award territory. Instead, the actor brings a lot of life to R without stepping too far in the other direction. After all, R is undead, his movements and ability to communicate stunted, but Hoult finds a way to successfully keep R on the same level as Julie – making it all the more believable that a human girl considers this corpse preferable to certain living people she also knows. At times, Hoult’s zombie mannerisms may come across a bit forced but, overall, his memorable moments outnumber (and outweigh) the awkward ones.Skip to next paragraph
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Similarly, Rob Corddry is a scene-stealer as best friend M – easily one of the most charming characters in the entire film. While Hoult is responsible for carrying the primary storyline to a satisfying conclusion, Corddry’s contributions are both humorous and heartening – with several crowd-pleasing one-liners. The film would not be nearly as successful without Corddry and, much like Hoult, the character is surprisingly impactful for someone that spends the majority of his onscreen time shambling around – communicating in grunts and stilted one-word responses.
Sadly, the “living” characters are much less captivating than their undead counterparts. Despite a competent performance from Palmer, Julie is mostly just a MacGuffin to push R outside of his comfort zone. Aside from a few exceptions, the character’s actions and feelings are designed to drive the plot, not add sensible or meaningful drama in the moment. As a result, the depiction is a major factor in the movie’s biggest misstep – a forced and underwhelming “romance” plot. On occasion, Julie does add meaningful elements to key commentaries that run through Warm Bodies - specifically complacency in both the corpse and human societies as well as a foggy definition of what it means to be “alive.”
Other human players, Perry (Dave Franco), Nora (Analeigh Tipton), and Julie’s father, General Grigio (John Malkovich), are resigned to familiar but narrow tropes. The characters are necessary for the overall “message” of the movie but, on their own, don’t carry significant weight or memorable payoff.
Ultimately, the success of Warm Bodies is heavily dependent on its attempts to twist and subvert zombie movie staples – meaning that moviegoers who are expecting explosive corpse slaying set pieces and gory carnage will absolutely be underwhelmed. The creepy “bonies” elevate tension in key scenes but, much like the human characters, they’re nondescript pawns with no function outside of the fundamental storyline. Instead, willing audiences will get a weird, but admittedly fun, character story. A story that includes glimpses of surprisingly smart social satire.
Not everyone will respond to the quirky plot but certain viewers are likely to enjoy Levine’s unapologetic attempts to make good on the bizarre setup. Zombie purists will have trouble overlooking alterations to undead genre conventions and supernatural romance enthusiasts may find the love story in Warm Bodies to be dead on arrival. However, open-minded movie-lovers with a diverse taste in brains movies may find a worthwhile experience in Levine’s blend of oddball moments, tongue-in-cheek humor, as well as a healthy dose of heart.
Ben Kendrick blogs at Screen Rant.
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