There’s been baby zombies, legless zombies, naked zombies, pet zombies and even fast zombies. But “Warm Bodies” is the first time a zombie in love has been presented on screen.
R (Nicholas Hoult) is having a bit of a dead-life crisis. He doesn’t remember his name, most of his conversations are internal, and he’s tired of his solitary existence as a member of the undead. He and his friend M (Rob Corddry, who is the best zombie ever) have stunted conversations, but R is looking for more. He wants a real connection with something beyond eating someone’s brains, which allow zombies to relive their victims memories.
R’s connection arrives when he sees Julie (Teresa Palmer), the girlfriend of the guy he just made a meal out of. Something about living his memories then seeing her stirs something in R that’s long been, well, dead. Wanting to keep things going with her, he takes her back to zombie central, which is the city’s the airport. The two hang out in R’s 747 listening to old records, drive a BMW around the landing strips and try to find some sort of connection between the living and the dead, leading to far and away the best segment of the film.
Writer-director Jonathan Levine, who last made the wonderful “50/50,” is a pro at handling emotional, heartfelt scenes, going for honesty over schtick. Working from Isaac Marion’s excellent novel, “Warm Bodies” isn’t close to being the film that “50/50” is, but as R and Julie get to know each other, “Bodies” almost reaches the highs of Levine’s previous effort. The movie only slips up when things get more mainstream with the appearance of a zombie hating John Malkovich and a bunch of all bone zombies, called bonies, who attack the humans.
Most everything about “Warm Bodies” goes against mainstream zombie lore. The entire premise goes against zombie mythology, in that the dead can heal themselves by reinserting themselves into life again. The reason zombies love brains so much is explained for once, and the zombies themselves lack the gore and decomposition of ones found in “The Walking Dead,” opting instead for an old school look by giving the actors a silver, deathly complexion. Of course, this is necessary, since the film is about bringing the dead back to life, and regeneration would not only be…off in this world, but it would balloon the budget with special effects.
But that’s not what “Warm Bodies” is about. It’s about how love can transform even the most dead of souls, as cheesy as that sounds. With a healthy dose of zombies and romance, “Warm Bodies” is that rare rom-com that has a little something for everybody.