“Warm Bodies” is a zombie rom-com, light on almost every ingredient, but with such a unique mix that many people will praise it highly. It’s not a great romance, it’s not a great comedy, it certainly isn’t a great zombie movie… but how often do you get those ingredients mixed together?
And as such, to me, it winds up a fairly enjoyable movie.
R (Nicholas Hoult) is a high-functioning zombie. He lives at the airport with a bunch of other zombies, but he’s different from the rest. He has rather existential thoughts for your typical undead, he collects things, plays music, and has one word conversations with his zombie best friend (Rob Coddry). He’s confused, and can’t remember how he got this way, but he does know that he’s dissatisfied with his aimless, shuffling existence.
When out on a food run (read: eating people), R eats the brains of his victim. In “Warm Bodies”, when zombies eat brains, it allows them to see and feel the memories of the deceased. On this particular occasion, R eats the brains of the boyfriend (Dave Franco) of a girl who is part of the group being attacked. After he sees the girl, Julie (Teresa Palmer), he realizes he wants to protect her from being killed, so he heads over to her first, smears his blood on her in order to hide her smell (the “Walking Dead” trick) and eventually has her follow the group of zombies home as if she was one of them.
He takes Julie back to his home aboard an airplane, in order to keep her safe. It’s here that the romance between the two begins to blossom, as he shows her his collection of oddities, and plays his records for her. The two are connecting, and R is slowly curing himself, but Julie can’t stay there forever.
Of course there are obstacles to her safe return.
In addition to regular zombies at the airport, there are also bone zombies, or “boneys”. The boneys are zombies who have deteriorated to the point where there’s nothing left to them but their skeletal and muscular systems. They do not have the same rationality that these zombies who are slowly curing themselves do. On top of that, if, somehow, they could return her to her home within the walled city, her militaristic father (John Malkovich) would shoot R on sight, regardless of his change of condition or not.
Thus the two need to find a way to get Julie home, while avoiding the mortal dangers facing both of them. There are armies standing in the way on either side, but there’s also an X Factor in play. R’s change in condition is spreading to other zombies. Seeing him and Julie together is enlightening them all to aspire to be human again.
There are a number of things about this film that irritated me, as a fan of zombie films. Zombies do not talk, or collect things, or listen to music (all of which he was doing even prior to meeting Julie). They do not “Get better”. There’s no such thing as a “Boney”, but in a world where zombies are curing themselves, the introduction of an irredeemable zombie should be expected. Who else would be the bad guy? And of course, the romantic interest just happens to be the daughter of the General in charge of the entire city… nothing like direct access in order to expedite a plot!!
However, “Warm Bodies” manages to overcome the issues I have with it by being sweet spirited and light-hearted. It certainly has its share of clichéd moments, but it also has some humorous elements and some occasional charm. There are some funny moments along the line, and in general, the film provides a thoughtful enough tone as not to seem disposable teen monster romance dreck. The two leads do a decent job with the comedy and the romance, too.
So even though everything is very (s)light, “Warm Bodies” was a decent enough diversion, especially for a February movie.