Warm Bodies is as slow as a zombie attack should be
‘Warm Bodies’ tries to be a dark and quirky zombified retelling of ‘Romeo and Juliet.’ Sadly, by the time the story really started moving, I was looking for a zombie to bite me.
In the past several months, I’ve become a very big fan of Nicholas Hoult. Over the winter hiatus, I targeted the UK version of Skins as one of those shows I would finally watch. Hoult starred as Tony Stonem in the first two seasons of the show, and was phenomenal. His star is on the rise now, with roles in X-Men: First Class and the upcoming Jack the Giant Slayer. When I recognized him in the Warm Bodies trailer, I instantly identified the latest zombie-apocalypse/Romeo and Juliet send-up as one to look out for. Sadly, Warm Bodies never lived up to the expectations the marketing push created for it.
If you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve got a very good grasp of what the film is all about – on the other hand, if you’ve not seen the trailer, go out of your way to avoid it. Hoult plays R, a zombie just trying to get through his repetitive, boring day. He’s got a pal – Warm Bodies diverges from established zombie lore in several fun ways – M (Rob Corddry), whom he has daily conversations with that sometimes – just sometimes – might include one barely recognizable word in a sea of grunts. They spend their days looking for humans to eat while steering clear of Bonies, zombies that have devolved into adversarial skeletal monsters.
Things change when R and M’s pack comes across a team of humans foraging for medical supplies, lead by Julie (Teresa Palmer), Nora (Analeigh Tipton) and Perry (Dave Franco). R immediately sees something in Julie that he doesn’t understand, and secrets her back to the abandoned airplane he calls home. The emotions he develops for her start a slow chain reaction that seems to be curing R, and eventually M and others, of their zombie infection.
Warm Bodies is defined by it’s dark humor probably more than anything else. The audience is privy to M’s thoughts via a voiceover, as he walks us through the “rules” of what being a zombie means in this world – including the weird memory transference that occurs when they eat someone’s brains – and later tries to make sense of the changes that he is experiencing. Considering the way the movie plays out, a voiceover was the only way the narrative could work, but it fails at keeping the audience engaged most of the time. While several of the film’s really funny moments comes from the juxtaposition of R’s thoughts against the reality of being around a girl, they are few and far between, especially ones that weren’t already spoiled in the film’s trailer.
The first two acts of the film go by at a nearly glacial pace. The third certainly picks up, but it is well past saving at that point. Not even the presence of John Malkovich – who plays Julie’s father and military leader of the survivors – does much to impact things; his small amount of screen time doesn’t provide him much of an opportunity beyond punching a clock. Analeigh Tipton is the film’s lone consistent bright spot, bringing the funny in ways none of the other cast is able to pull off on a regular basis.
I’m a big fan of a movie that take Shakespeare’s stories and tells them in new and interesting ways. I’m also a big fan of dark, quirky comedies like Warm Bodies intended to be. For as much as I wanted to like it, I couldn’t help but be disappointed. There’s nothing that Warm Bodies tries that Ruben Fleisher’s Zombieland didn’t do better. Zombie fans will enjoy Warm Bodies, but I think they deserve better.