Zombie romance comes alive in 'Warm Bodies'

Nicholas Hoult portrays a zombie who falls in love with a human.
Nicholas Hoult portrays a zombie who falls in love with a human.
Posted: February 01, 2013

MOST WOMEN like a guy with brains, but maybe not a guy who keeps brains in his hoodie pouch, for snacking.

This is just one of the many roadblocks to romance in "Warm Bodies" an inventive zomcom about a zombie (Nicholas Hoult) who can't remember his first name, or forget that he's in love.

He falls for a beautiful non-zombie girl (Teresa Palmer), whom he impulsively saves right after killing and partially eating her boyfriend.

He keeps her safe and hidden at the zombie-infested airport, holed up in the cabin of an old plane, where he spins vinyl for her and gathers food and blankets. She's scared at first, but warms to his fumbling attentions and goofball sincerity. A halting romance develops.

Her name is Julie. His . . . well all he can remember is that it starts with "R." They are star-crossed lovers, in a forbidden relationship that ultimately poses a threat to the established human/zombie order of permanent, tribal antagonism.

So you know what the "R" stands for.

Romeo, but also Really Dorky.

One of the jokes built into "Warm Bodies," written and directed by "50/50" helmer Jonathan Levine, is that R's zombie awkwardness is shorthand for the awkwardness young men feel in the presence of pretty girls. At least R has an excuse for all the stammering, shuffling and tripping: He's half dead.

The twist - the longer he's around Julie, the more alive R becomes. It's not always a smooth progression. "Warm Bodies" is often as clumsy as R himself, and loses track of its own zombie rules.

Still, it bravely reverses the polarity of an increasingly grim genre. Most zombie movies in the post-"Night of the Living Dead" era have an ugly edge to them - the creatures milling in herds around shopping malls form a disposable subhuman mob whose slaughter fuels a misanthropic vibe.

"Warm Bodies" repatriates zombies as individuals, as people - less cleverly but more warmly than "Shaun of the Dead," wherein your zombie best friend was welcome to stay in a shed in your back yard.

And "Warm Bodies" has that cheeky, Shakespearean layer to it, one that accelerates as Julie has to explain R to her zombie-hating dad (John Malkovich).

Though you needn't worry that R and Julie will end up like their namesakes.

R can't kill himself.

He's already dead.

Blog: philly.com/KeepItReel

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