Biological and philosophical inquiries aside, “Warm Bodies” isn’t out to revolutionize the zombie genre, nor is it the first film to add a comedic spin on the walking dead apocalypse. But it packs an onslaught of hilarious and charming performances and heart that bring full life to this undead flick.
Director: Jonathan Levine (2013)
Popular fiction generally suggests that when a zombie makes their initial bite on a human is the moment the human becomes undead. But “Warm Bodies” pale protagonist R (Nicholas Hoult), still expresses distinct human emotions and behavior long after his death. This central confliction between R’s bodily zombification and his mental longing for human love and purpose is at central focus in the film, begging us to reconsider what is and is not a zombie in a hilarious fashion.
“Warm Bodies” opens with R wandering around an abandoned airport with no inherent memory, purpose or goal. He kicks back in a faded jumbo jet, listening to vintage vinyl records and yearning for something more meaningful than the zombie lifestyle but still too elusive that he can’t quite nibble his finger on. R also hangs out with the laughable M (Rob Cordry, not Judi Dench) at the airport bar, whose muffled exchange of grunts and moans is the closest they’ll get to a lively drunk conversation. They often can’t make out words, so letters have taken the place of their former names. But Zombies are oh so hungry, and R and crew must lurch over to the human settlement for some delicious living treats.
Across town in a fortified city barricade is Julie (Teresa Palmer) and crew, some of the last human survivors of the zombie apocalypse. They’re confident and brash and well equipped with firearms, despite their bleak outlook on the future of humanity. Leading the resistance is Palmer’s father Grigio (John Malkovich), who after losing his wife to the undead has a pretty strong case of zombie xenophobia. Grigio sends Julie and her gang to retrieve medicine for the survivors, they encounter R and his zombie gang, R falls limbs over heels for Palmer, rescues her from his less classy cohorts and takes her back to his zombie 747 bachelor pad.
R is clearly entranced by Teresa and wants to get her to see past his undead eyes into a spirit of pure kindness. He views his zombification not so much of a complete romantic deal breaker as more of a dating weakness that he can eventually overcome, like acne or bad breath. So he tries to woo Palmer with music and games and pictures that brings memories of Hoult in “X-Men: First Class” where he nervously tried to woo a prickly blue Jennifer Lawrence. Teresa opens up to R and begins teaching him the finer qualities of being human, and as R understands we see him transforming from zombie undead into your typical awkward horny 20-something male. It’s a hilarious ride that brings fresh memories of your first zombie flick and your first awkward date in loving proportions.
“Warm Bodies” doesn’t necessarily have a plot or a central goal as much as it creates a universe of funny characters and circumstances whose choices have no real bearing on the world around them. It generates scenarios that the characters act out, not a story that is character driven. The film is also cheesy and overly sentimental, but really who doesn’t yearn for the past after the world has ended? “Warm Bodies” will warm your spirit and make you laugh, and really that’s all you can ask for out of life, whether you’re living or dead.