Directed by: Jonathan Levine
Starring: Nicolas Hoult, Teresa Palmer, John Malkovich
Zombies have served for decades as the perfect antagonist for a story. They require little exposition, no explanation, development, or thought. Here in Warm Bodies we get a playful deconstruction of the zombie mythos, by way of one zombie named R. R is having a bit of an existential crisis. He is still sort of himself, inside his zombie head, but he can’t make any sort of human connection with the rest of the dead he’s surrounded by. That is until he meets Julie. It’s love at first sight. Then he eats her boyfriend (Dave Franco (James’ brother, that looks distractingly like him)). The relationship is complicated.
It’s far along in the zombie apocalypse and there are not much people left. There is one holdout surrounded by concrete walls in which Malkovich is the leader. His daughter Julie is smart, and a touch rebellious. When her friends are all eaten alive, R saves her, and takes her back to his home. He is sort of the Wall-E of zombies. Hoarding all the little random junk he finds, and narrating the film with cheeky humor, pointing out the large amount of cognitive dissonance found in one with a functioning brain, a nonresponsive body, and a need to eat brains. He manages to croak out a few words, and after some bonding with a hesitant Julie, his heart beats.
Julie doesn’t quite trust the zombie, but is perplexed. She makes a dash for it and encounters the bonies. You thought zombies were bad. These guys are (poorly animated) skeletons from zombies who have lost hope (yep, there are a lot of thinly disguised symbolism to come), and they’re ruthless. Somehow, the other zombies see the love R has, and don’t you know it, love conquers all, even the undead. They head back to civilization, as R munches on leftovers of Julie’s ex’s brains. This allows him to relive memories he had. When he reveals this, Julie splits.
But the revitalization of the zombies is somehow a threat to the bonies, although I’m not sure how. Anyway it sets up a climax of going after the girl who got away and impending doom. Bodies isn’t as a whole, really laugh out loud funny. It’s charming, it has its moments, but it’s a little predictable both plot and humor-wise. While Hoult makes a good zombie, and a change to a handsome boy, Teresa Palmer is completely luminous as the tough and smart Julie. And Malkovich is surprisingly restrained, given the material. It’s no Shaun of the Dead or Zombieland, but if you’ve become dead to the zombie genre, it’ll get the heart beating again.