Warm Bodies is a Zom-rom-com from writer/director Jonathan Levine (50/50, The Wackness). Adapted from Seattle author Isaac Marion’s 2011 novel of the same name, Warm Bodies is a loose retelling of Romeo and Juliet against the backdrop of the zombie apocalypse. Nicholas Hoult of About a Boy fame plays R, a lonely zombie who spends his endless days wandering around an abandoned airport. His only friend is M (Rob Corddry), a middle-aged zombie who he has the occasional grunting conversation with. On the other side of apocalypse is human Julie Grigio (Teresa Palmer), the daughter of General Grigio (John Malkovich), leader of the zombie resistance. When R meets Julie he realizes that she makes him feel human again. He begins to talk more, feel things, and even dream. But can a corpse have a relationship with the living? Hilarity ensues.
Warm Bodies is a fun concept that unfortunately plays out in formulaic rom-com fashion. The comedic beats are all familiar and the plot is ultimately predictable. What would have made Warm Bodies stand out is if it had given the audience more insight into the world of the undead. We get a taste through R’s opening narration but it feels rushed. There’s not to enough time to let everything permeate. What is intriguing is the film’s primary antagonists, “The Bonies”. These are zombies that have torn off all of their flesh and become animalistic, killer skeletons. Though it’s a shame that the overly CG bonies look so phony. The overuse of CG gives the film a look that’s too-polished and too-Hollywood. The best Zombie movies have a gritty, low-budget look. Shaun of the Dead is a perfect example.
What works in Warm Bodies’ favor are the “heartwarming” performances. Nicholas Hoult somehow manages to capture both the awkwardness of teen adolescence and the mindlessness of being undead. Teresa Palmer, despite looking like a blonde Kristen Stewart, gives the best performance as the emotionally conflicted heroine. Not to count out Rob Corddy, who is oddly memorable considering he spends most of his time groaning and grumbling. What’s surprising is how low-key John Malkovich is in the role of the unsympathetic General Grigio. Nonetheless, everyone does their best to rise above middling material.
I’m not surprised to hear that the novel is superior to the film. The very qualities that the film lacks is what I’m sure makes up a great deal of the novel, specifically, detail and insight. I commend the effort, but when it’s all said and done, Warm Bodies left me lukewarm.