OK, here is an analogy for you; “Twilight” is to Vampires, as “Warm Bodies” is to Zombies.I’ve never been one of the haters of the “Twilight” series, but I never understood why the brooding emo kids were supposed to be vampires. The only thing they had in common with traditional vampires was that they drank blood. Well the only thing the Zombies in this movie have in common with traditional Zombies is that they eat brains. I don’t see an automatic problem with playing with the conventions of a genre, but the whole purpose of this movie is to take those conventions and sweep them away, to tell a story that has almost nothing to do with the original set up. It feels like more of a cheat here than it did in the teen werewolf/vampire soap opera. It was a fun idea for the duration of the trailer, but for the length of a movie it kind of irritated me.
Every few years or so, Shakespeare’s immortal tragedy Romeo and Juliet, is reinvented for the cinema. Zeffirelli and Baz Luhrman, stay true to the text and visualize the story differently. “West Side Story” turns it into a musical, “Valley Girl” turns it into a teen romance without the tragedy. I had missed the name of the female character in this movie until she returns back to the protected compound of uninfected humans. As soon as she was greeted by her name, I saw all the connections to the Shakespeare play. “Warm Bodies” is Romeo and Juliet with Zombies, but pretending to be something else. Frankly it is less a romance than a comedy, and the story, as classic as it may be is not quite strong enough to hold all the disparate elements together.
The leads are attractive enough and the unusual nature of their romance is played up.Nicholas Hoult was the star of one of my favorite films from the previous decade, “About a Boy”. From the gawky kid he played in that movie he has grown to be the kind of handsome young man that girls might swoon over, even if he is dead. Of course he never really is, at least not from our understanding of zombies. If you are willing to accept that Zombies can be sentient, then I guess there is a chance that this will work. The internal monologue of the Hoult’s lead character, “R”, is funny in a self knowing and mocking way. Of course it immediately undermines all the horror elements of the movie and there is never a single moment of horror or fright. There is one jump, but it has to do with our lovers as hero survivors rather than the Zombie Apocalypse. This movie is really designed as a Valentines Day date movie without Nicolas Sparks.
You really have to shut your brain off on this one. There is an early joke about how slow the zombies move, but five minutes later, “R” is running with Julie down corridors and across airport tarmacs. Zombies can’t talk, according to the internal monologue, but again, just a few minutes later, “R” is doing Tarzan speak with Julie. Except for the one incident of brain eating, he could easily be the cute mute boy next door and not a zombie. Most of the humans in the “safe zone” act more zombie like than the “corpses” they supposedly fear. With the exception of Julie, and her cute best friend (and nurse, wink, wink Billy) no one seems to be doing much in the human world. Her father, the head of the security for the “safe zone” is played by John Malkovich, in the least John Malkovich way possible. There is nothing about his character that suggests that Malkovich was a good casting choice. It is a waste of a good actor with cache to spare in oddball parts. Here he could be anybody.
If you are a fifteen year old girl, you will like the film for the cute boy and girl love story. If you are anyone else, I hope you go with a fifteen year old girl because otherwise the experience will be wasted on you. Two or three small laughs in the beginning, followed by an hour of “what the hell is this?” and then an attempt to turn the death of Romeo and Juliet into the restoration of life to our main character. The word “exhumed” is used as a punch line for a lame bit in the movie, but it is prophetic, because after I saw this, I needed to be “exhumed” from the stupor that it induced.