Warm Bodies is a zombie film. Warm Bodies is a romantic comedy. Can you make a zom-rom-com? Jonathan Levine sure can and he did it very, very well. Starring Nicholas Hoult as “R”, a zombie who can only remember that his first name started with that letter, and Teresa Palmer as “Julie”, the girl he will ultimately fall in love with.
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R is part of a group of ‘corpses’ who live at the abandoned airport adjacent to a major, unnamed city. There was some kind of cataclysmic event and most of the people are dead. Those who were infected by whatever created the zombies shuffle around and try to find humans to eat. When the corpses reach a certain point, they peel away their flesh and become “boneys” and no longer have any semblance of or connection to humanity.
R and his friend “M” (Rob Corrdry) communicate, sort of. They grunt at each other. But when they decide to go out and find some flesh, something happens. They encounter Julie, her boyfriend “Perry” (Dave Franco) and other teens who are out gathering medical supplies. They were sent out by the leader of the group of humans who have taken refuge in an area that’s blocked off by a great big wall. They carry guns and know that the zombies, corpse and boney alike, can only be stopped with a shot to the head.
R, M and other corpses find the teens and kill most of them. R himself eats Perry and in consuming his brains gets access to Perry’s memories. As a result he rescues Julie and takes her to a safe place, his home. He resides in an abandoned airplane where he has accumulated an amazing collection of ‘stuff’. Julie is amazed that R can communicate at all and is intrigued and curious about him. Julie’s connection with R has started changes within the corpses and there’s no telling where these changes will stop. Meanwhile, her father, “General Grigio” wants her back and is concerned that the humans are becoming too outnumbered by their zombie pursuers. How he will deal with this, the changes in the corpses and the reaction of the boneys provide for a very entertaining final act and conclusion.
Levine, working with cinematographer Javier Aguirresarobe, production designer Martin Whist and set decorator Suzanne Cloutier have created an amazing post-apocalyptic, dystopian backdrop for a zombie love story. Zombie purists will whine that Levine has violated some of the “rules” about zombies in this film genre but they should just chill. This is a film that’s funny, poignant and manages to make relevant social commentary without beating you over the head with the messages.
The writer/director has a cameo appearance near the end of the movie, but not as a corpse. He said “I was tempted to zombiefy myself but in the end decided it would take too long. It was tempting though.”
Nicholas Hoult and Teresa Palmer have just the right chemistry for a romance between a corpse that’s becoming human and a human who is getting back in touch with her humanity after suffering some very painful losses. Rob Corddry rocks his role as “M” and John Malkovich makes a fine, troubled leader.