Zombies have been done to death — pun absolutely intended.
Ever since AMC’s “The Walking Dead” became a hit cable drama in 2010, film and TV viewers have felt a lot like Rick and the rest of the show’s survivors: zombies are everywhere.
So when the trailer for “Warm Bodies” started airing, eyes across the nation rolled back into their heads. A few seconds later, everybody realized this is a comedy…about a zombie…who falls in love…with a human. Those eyes unrolled themselves and got wide because the premise sounded kind of awesome.
The movie began its run in theaters on Feb. 1 and is based on the novel by Isaac Marion.
The opening scene features the male protagonist, played by Nicholas Hoult, which is one of many zombies that spends much of the time aimlessly wandering around an airport. A narration from this zombie, who has forgotten his own name, sounds more human than undead — a sign of advanced mental capabilities that distinguish him from his foot-dragging peers.
Meanwhile, a large group of humans have created a safe haven in the city with giant walls and armed security. Still, they’re not entirely self-sufficient. A group of young adults — including Julie, played by Teresa Palmer, and her boyfriend Perry, played by Dave Franco — must venture outside the confines of safety to collect medical supplies from abandoned buildings. They are sent by General Grigio, played by John Malkovich, who is the city’s leader as well as Julie’s father.
The group gets attacked by a pack of zombies that includes the protagonist from before. During the chaos, he becomes infatuated with Julie and saves her from the melee by keeping in the airplane he calls home. From there, R — as Julie decided to name him — and the new apple of his eye form a bond, a bond that helps R slowly regain human abilities, like speech.
Much of the film’s humor comes from R’s narration. In the opening scene, R walks around the airport and his voiceover talks about how he should stand up straight, eat better and be more social — all things that are impossible given his condition.
“I don’t want to be this way,” he says. “I’m lonely. I’m lost. I mean, I’m literally lost: I’ve never been in this part of the airport before.”
The opening scene also introduces M — a zombie played by Rob Corddry — as R’s best friend.
“This is my best friend,” R says. “By best friend, I mean we occasionally grunt and stare awkwardly at each other.”
Corddry is entertaining during every second of screentime. Due to the nature of his character, his performance is more subdued here than in shows like “Childrens Hospital.” But as M regains the ability to speak, he becomes funnier and funnier. In a moment when R is feeling down after a problem with Julie, M asks, “You…OK?” R says he’s not, so M shakes his head and responds, “B—-es.”
Due to AMC’s animalistic version of the undead, it can be hard at first to stomach the almost animated, somewhat speaking zombies in “Warm Bodies.” Given that this is a comedy and there’s no “true” way to portray zombies — since there is no reality to base them on — it is easy to overlook that detail.
Hoult does a fantastic job to inject emotion and feeling into a type of character stereotypically known to lack those traits. Since his use of speech is more limited early in the movie, he relies heavily on body language and facial expressions, giving life to his undead character while lumbering around like a mass of decaying flesh.
The fact that this movie is described on Wikipedia as a “paranormal, romantic zombie comedy” should be enough to make anybody at least consider checking out “Warm Bodies.” Thankfully, the movie delivers on its strong premise. Like R, you feel more alive as the film goes on.