In the immortal words of the Beatles, all you need is love, love... love is all you need. This sentiment perfectly encapsulates the overriding theme and message behind the new zombie rom com, Warm Bodies.
Now I know that many people will be resistant towards yet another film about zombies since there are so bloody many of them these days, but I must say that this one is a little different and one that I could see becoming somewhat of a cult favourite in time. Warm Bodies takes a lighthearted and sweet approach to the zombie apocalypse genre by infusing it with a very unorthodox love story that works wonderfully as long as you don't allow too much logic to seep into the equation. It may seem preposterous but it is a fantasy after all.
Director Jonathan Levine (The Wackness, 50/50) borrows heavily from the plot of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet (right down to the names of the lead characters - R played by Nicholas Hoult and Julie played by Teresa Palmer). The story is told to us from R's point of view, with voice over narration by Hoult explaining how the world is now, post zombie apocalypse, and how little he remembers about his previous life as well as how he communicates with his best zombie friend M (Rob Corddry). He spends the majority of his day wandering around an abandoned airport and shacking up inside an empty airplane where he listens to old vinyl records that he has collected over time. He is searching for something more than just being a mindless, flesh-eating monster and he seemingly has ambition to alter the zombie world.
Enter Julie, who has been raised by her Military General father (John Malkovich) to fear the undead and to destroy them on sight. She, along with a small group of humans are sent out of their nearby walled in city to go on a medical supply run at the abandoned airport. They are of course attacked by zombies, including R, who ends up killing and eating the brains of Julie's boyfriend (Dave Franco). In a twist on the zombie mythology, upon eating his brains R absorbs the memories of Julie's boyfriend and when he sees Julie, he becomes protective of her and he rescues her from attack by sheltering her in the airplane where he lives.
It may sound silly, but this is where the courtship begins. R has trouble vocalizing what he wants to say to Julie so he articulates his thoughts and feelings by playing his records for her. Songs like, Patience by Guns and Roses, Hungry Heart by Bruce Springsteen and Shelter from the Storm by Bob Dylan. This film has a really killer soundtrack by the way. Naturally, as she spends more time with R, Julie begins to warm up to him and not see him as the monster she thought he was. R in turn begins to exhibit more human traits, like improved speech ability, better posture and even a heartbeat and emotions. Could it be that all it takes to cure the zombie plague is true love?
I know some people might roll their eyes at how schmaltzy that sounds but trust me when I say that it is handled in a very clever and funny manner, and while it is definitely cute and sweet, it never falls into the gag-me-with-a-spoon territory. In fact there is enough danger involving some nasty skeleton like zombies known as "bonies" that keep the tension and suspense ratcheted up throughout the film. This might be the perfect date film for Valentine's day since the romance storyline will appeal to the ladies and there is still enough action and zombie carnage to lure the guys in.
Filled with solid performances all around, Warm Bodies is a smartly written film which I found to be thoroughly entertaining. I really connected with the message of the film as well that humans need to reconnect with one another on a more personal level rather than being so mired in impersonal technology such as twitter, cell phones and text messages. Real honest human connection and love will be what cures us of all of our troubles and makes the world a better place to exist in.
Warm Bodies does a fine job of deftly balancing a zombie horror with romantic comedy and it ends up being a clever and fun little movie that I hope people's hearts will warm to.
This deserves to be a hit, so seek it out.
I give Warm Bodies an 8 out of 10.