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Friday, Aug. 22, 2014

'Warm Bodies'

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

I have to admit that it was a great decision to release a movie called "Warm Bodies" in February. The title makes for a terrific invitation to get out of the cold and into a theater. If the film were called "Warm Bodies Wrapped up in Snuggly Blankets and Drinking Rich Hot Cocoa", it would really be unstoppable. Maybe if there's a sequel.

The film tells the story of a former human who falls in love with a current human. The former human is a zombie called R (Nicholas Hoult), and when we meet him he has nothing better to do than be a zombie all day. His daily activities include staggering around an airport, occasionally grunting to his friend M (Rob Corddry), and hoping some juicy human brains will turn up. One day brains do turn up attached to a group of humans gathering supplies. Instinctively, he eats the grey matter of Perry (Dave Franco), which gives him some of the young man's memories. This causes R to immediately fall in love with his girlfriend Julie (Teresa Palmer), one of the few survivors of the ambushed group. Can R overcome absolutely everything about being a zombie to win Julie's heart?

It isn't easy. R can only grunt, not talk, to Julie. He can run and fight when he needs to, but has very little in the way of motor skills (both kinds of motor skills). But the real obstacle is that Julie doesn't trust him not to eat her brains. And no, it does not help matters for R to point out that he's full from eating her boyfriend's brains. The one thing he can offer is protection, being a zombie gives him an insight into the weaknesses of the other zombies. She in turn takes him home to meet her father (John Malkovich), the leader of the human resistance. He steadfastly believes that all zombies are soulless killing machines, but she wants to show him that some like R are capable of compassion.

As the relationship strengthens, R's condition improves. His heart starts beating, he's capable of more speech, and he becomes one of the "Warm Bodies" of the title. Fellow zombies like M begin to improve as well when they see the way R and Julie care for each other. This is one of those stories where love is the key to saving humanity. Normally I would scoff at something so ridiculous, but this movie has zombies, so my disbelief is appropriately suspended.

Since "Warm Bodies" is about a relationship between a human girl and a horror creature, comparisons to "Twilight" are inevitable. Truthfully, the two aren't that similar. "Warm Bodies" is actually told through the eyes of the creature (via narration that I didn't find funny) and unlike Edward and Jacob, R is a full-fledged zombie at all times. There aren't any scenes where he seems normal and nonthreatening and the camera can look at him lovingly. Nicholas Hoult may reach heartthrob status someday, but I can't picture teenage girls putting up posters of him as R on their bedroom walls.

What really hurt "Warm Bodies" for me was its look. Almost everything has a depressing blue-purple tint to it. I got the suspicion that the production was trying to save money by not buying proper light bulbs. Also, the skeletal villains are made of terrible CGI. As for the script, the "zombie in love" plot hasn't been done to death yet, but plots about zombies, lovers from different worlds, and the military trying to destroy something it doesn't understand certainly have. Whittle "Warm Bodies" down to its good parts and you have a few funny date scenes between a human and a zombie. It may not be much, but it's better than standing out in the cold.

**

Two Stars out of Five.

"Warm Bodies" is rated PG-13 for zombie violence and some language. Its running time is 97 minutes.

Contact Bob Garver at rrg251@nyu.edu.

Bob Garver
Movie Review