R (Nicholas Hoult: X-Men: First Class) is a directionless 20-something. Unmotivated, grungy and introspective, R spends his days wandering the airport, speaking in grunts when accosted.
R is also a zombie.
But unlike many zombies, R feels conflicted about his blood lust. He’s curious about the humans he feasts on and tries his best to remember what it was like to be a person instead of a predator. He collects objects that he deems especially human: magazines, records, toys.
In spite of his curiosity, the only way R can experience his lost humanity is through brains, his victims’ brains to be exact. When munching on grey matter, zombies experience their dinner’s memories and feelings, briefly feeling human again.
When R feasts on the brain of Perry (Dave Franco: 21 Jump Street), his world changes. Perry’s memories are of his girlfriend Julie (Teresa Palmer: Wish You Were Here). R is smitten with the perky blonde who is blowing away his zombie brethren fighting for her life.
R takes a risk and saves the girl instead of snacking on her. As he gets to know Julie (by snacking on her now late-boyfriend’s brain and through actual interaction), R remembers being human.
Can R rediscover his humanity? Can love conquer death? What’s a girl to do when her boyfriend is literally rotten?
Warm Bodies is a funny and surprisingly sweet romantic comedy, considering one of the leads spends most of the movie smeared with blood. The film challenges most zombie mythology, making the monsters somewhat sentient and relatable. To some this will seem like sacrilege, but if you can accept R’s inner monologue, you’ll be able to appreciate the movie as a hilarious critique of many popular zombie tropes. It’s better than sparkling vampires.
The ultimate reasoning behind the zombie apocalypse is a bit disappointing, but Jonathan Levine’s (50/50) script is strong enough to distract you from the ridiculousness of the plot. Still, there are some frustrating inconsistencies.
Because these zombies are ultimately supposed to be appealing, they can’t be as frightening as they are in The Walking Dead. Gone are the gory chunks of torn flesh and rotten patches of skin. Instead, the undead look down on their luck. Their skin is pale, their clothes are dirty and disheveled and pallid blue veins snake up their necks. For mobile corpses, they look remarkably good.
Performances elevate Warm Bodies from gimmicky comedy to true entertainment. Hoult is an able zombie lead, conveying his inquisitive nature and kind heart through his pale seemingly dead eyes. R could have been a joke, but Hoult makes his rigored limbs and pallor seem awkward and cute instead of menacing and rotten. As R’s best dead-friend M, Rob Corddry (Escape from Planet Earth) gets most of the laughs with his dry wit.
Palmer is a capable heroine, with enough beauty and spunk to convincingly win the decaying heart of our leading man. She’s able to convey a surprising array of emotions in a character that could easily be one-dimensional.
In a movie about zombies, it’s surprising that the only person chewing the scenery is a human character. As Julie’s father and the leader of the human survivors, Grigio (John Malkovich: Lines of Wellington) is gloriously over the top, snarling and threatening.
Warm Bodies isn’t a love story for every audience, but it delivers plenty of heart and just enough undead humor to make it a surprisingly sweet love story for horror fans.