Review: Jonathan Levine's 'Warm Bodies' is Sweet, Funny & Excellent
by Jeremy Kirk
January 31, 2013
The flurry of zombie movies in the past decade have made it a cliched genre. There doesn't seem to be anything more to say about humanity surviving in the face of dead walking the earth with one thought, to eat us. Also to shuffle about aimlessly. Jonathan Levine, the filmmaker behind such gems as The Wackness and 50/50 seems to have tired of the typical zombie movie, too. He's written and directed Warm Bodies, a horror comedy from the perspective of the zombie and all the hilarity that ensues. Warm Bodies is funny, but it's also sweet, a bit dark at times, highly original and the first must-see film of 2013.
R, the zombie in question, is your typical walker, moving around without direction or purpose, mostly spending his days walking around the airport. He carries on grunt-loaded conversations with another zombie, M, and his internal monologue tells us that, inside, zombies knows what they are. They no longer have control of their actions, and R never attempts to justify his actions, particularly when he and a horde of the dead attack a group of humans. Among them is Julie, the daughter of a hardened general who just wants to live her life as she can in this death-filled world. R immediately falls for her and determines to make her fall for him, which might prove some difficulty considering, you know, humans and zombies all want to kill each other. Imagine the comedy, especially when R's new turn towards loving humans instead of eating them begins to change him.
With Warm Bodies, Jonathan Levine takes the novel by Isaac Marion and adapts it to a film that is as funny as it is genuinely heartwarming, no pun intended. After the attack, R takes Julie back to his safe haven, an abandoned airplane sitting on the tarmac and filled with various items R has collected in the eight years since the zombie outbreak, well, broke out. As with The Wackness, which Levine also wrote, the dialogue is smart but in the cutest way possible. The sincerity of his dialogue, even the single words R seems to push out of his dead body, keeps you interested in a developing relationship that's about as outside the box as you can get.
R is still a zombie, after all, and that attack his horde dropped on Julie and her friends wasn't without casualties. We've seen R attack a human, bite them in the arm, and keep their brains for a snack later - Also eating brains lets zombies remember our memories. That's kind of important. But even though Warm Bodies is a love story between woman and monster, the screenwriting and execution of every step delivers a charm that can't be denied.
Levine and Warm Bodies also deliver a healthy horror flick. Zombies aren't the only threat to humans in this post-apocalyptic world. There is another threat, bonies, which are essentially zombies that are beyond redemption, have pealed off all their skin, and brazenly attack any and all things with beating hearts. As R puts it, at least zombies are conflicted about eating humans. There's that charm again. As with Levine's unfortunately unreleased horror gem All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, Warm Bodies has solid scares on more than a few occasions. Even though the bonies are fully CG creations, and obviously so, Levine shrouds them well enough in darkness that we only get quick flashes of glistening bone. It's effective, and also a nice way Warm Bodies stays PG-13 with all the blood that should be splattering around.
Just as effectively as he handles his dialogue and action, Levine's work with his actors is astounding as always. Nicholas Hoult shines in the lead role of R, and he finds a way to turn on the creepy just as quickly as he can turn on the comedy. And that's nothing to say about how fast he finds the charm in this undead character. Everything R is supposed to be, Hoult pulls off with remarkable results. It helps that he's aided by a strong supporting cast, Teresa Palmer strong and sweet as Julie and John Malkovich as her no-guts-no-glory father. Malkovich doesn't try to be funny, doesn't try to flip the Malkovich switch. That's funny in movies like RED, but his subdued and intimidating turn here is just as notable.
Warm Bodies is a great zombie movie, but it's also a genuinely warm and charming story of unconventional love. Telling the story from the zombie's point of view is such an inventive choice, but it's the sweetness and care Levine and everyone else involved in this film put in that makes it such a fantastic film. The Romeo and Juliet angle has been told a thousand times before. The zombie film has quickly lost its own mojo. However, leave it to a fine filmmaker such as Jonathan Levine to take both of those tropes and create something as fun, rewarding, and, yes, a little scary as Warm Bodies.
Jeremy's Rating: 9 out of 10
Reader Feedback - 12 Comments
Definitely seeing this. With the old ball and chain, if she is willing...or drugged.
Xerxexx on Jan 31, 2013
I was very disappointed in this film. Unique premise, sure... but nothing surprising happened and I felt little connection to the characters. Also, as a big fan of zombie films, I felt they could've done much more with the theme... to each their own, but I'd give it a 4/10.
Zeus on Jan 31, 2013
I'll never understand the reviews that come from this website.
Aaron Burns on Jan 31, 2013
Ditto, too many differences and fanboy scores even on movies that were expected to do well that failed overall. The guys here give too many good/decent scores to most of the fanboy movies even if the overall masses hated it. Bias much?
Quagmire on Jan 31, 2013
Its an opinion site. Billington and friends voice their opinion.
Xerxexx on Jan 31, 2013
Who cares what the masses think?
Carpola on Feb 1, 2013
Do you prefer them to be negative always like a lot of other critics. Jeremy writes great reviews.
Peter on Feb 1, 2013
Davide Coppola on Feb 1, 2013
I saw it a couple of months ago. I liked it. It's like A better version of Twilight meets the Zombie Genre.
Tyler Bannock on Feb 1, 2013
Ummm.....a 9/10? Wow, I was going to see this regardless of that any critic might think, but this sounds like a masterpiece? Are you saying that in the horror-comedy(/romance) genre, this is a 9/10? Or? All the Boys Love Mandy Lane(2006) was never released in the USA?? I looked it up, it was screened at South by Southwest Film Festival in 2007 and that was it. It's a good horror movie, and impressive that it was shot for $750,000. It broke even or so in Europe, and has been on cable since around 2008. Do you know why Weinstein has not released it in the USA(I can't seem to find out that part of the story)? It's not even on in DvD/Blu-ray in the USA/region 1 or A.
David Banner on Feb 1, 2013
That 9/10 is currently the highest rated score in the world for this movie, by a film critic. Just saying.
David Banner on Feb 2, 2013
I really was skeptical when I heard about this - and I thought there was definitely no way it could be anywhere close to as good as Shaun of the Dead, but it totally exceeded my expectations. Like Shaun of the Dead it was a dark zombie romcom, but it definitely had it's own distinct tone, and had great acting all around. One area where it even exceeded Shaun of the Dead was in music - one of my favorite examples was when they used M83's "Midnight City" during the scene where R is “made up” to look like a human.
Modest Complexity on Mar 2, 2013
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