Movie Review: 'Warm Bodies' mixes the dead and the living in an unusual way

A zombie known only by the initial of R (Nicholas Hoult) silently reminds himself: "Don't be creepy. Don't be creepy. Don't be creepy."

After all, he is trying to make a good impression on a human teenager, Julie (Teresa Palmer), he has brought to the abandoned 747 plane he calls home in "Warm Bodies." It's parked outside an airport that's a zombie stronghold, much as Monroeville Mall became in "Dawn of the Dead."

R may be a zombie who cannot remember his name, occupation or much of anything else, but he feels something for Julie, even if his heart is not beating at the moment. It might before "Warm Bodies" is over, making this zomromcom a low-key charmer and winner, especially for anyone weaned on George A. Romero's ghouls.

Just when you think there are no new twists on the zombie genre -- a book called "Zombie Movies: The Ultimate Guide" has nearly 400 reviews -- along comes a movie version of Isaac Marion's debut novel.

It's been eight years since a plague destroyed the world and carved out three categories of occupants: humans, such as Julie and her zombie-hunting dad (John Malkovich), who live behind the protection of massive walls; corpses such as R; and "boneys" or an advanced breed of zombies who appear as ravenous skeletons.

Humans venture into zombieland to hunt the undead or, in the case of Julie and her high school sweetheart, Perry (Dave Franco), scavenge for supplies. Perry has a fateful, fatal encounter with R, which starts with a bite on the arm and ends with the zombie eating the stranger's brain.

Mmm. The brain is the best part because it makes R feel human again and transfers the victim's memories to him.

"Warm Bodies," directed and adapted by Jonathan Levine who also assembled a savvy mix of 1970s album rock, power ballads and mainstream '80s rock plus modern indie music, has echoes of Shakespeare, complete with a balcony scene and a would-be nurse.

'Warm Bodies'

3 stars = Good
Ratings explained

  • Starring:

    Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer, John Malkovich.

  • Rating:

    PG-13 for zombie violence and some language.

But no knowledge of Romeo or Romero is needed for this story about enemies who realize they don't have to live in separate camps, how people or zombies can change, about learning to live again and how the cold-bodied can become the warmhearted.

Mr. Hoult, who held his own as a 12-year-old opposite Hugh Grant in "About a Boy" and graduated to movies such as "A Single Man" starring Colin Firth and "X-Men: First Class," is the sensitive face of the undead.

His words come in the narration, not in conversation, which means he has to convey emotions and thoughts through body language and expressive eyes peering through skin bearing noticeable veins and the occasional slash of blood or pus. He has your sympathy from the start.

If Ms. Palmer looks familiar, that's because she was Number Six in "I Am Number Four." The sci-fi thriller was filmed almost entirely in Western Pennsylvania in 2010.

Key supporting roles are nicely handled by Rob Corddry as R's pal, M, and Analeigh Tipton as Julie's closest friend, Nora, who says she knows it's really hard to meet guys but a zombie? An online dating service might never pair them but the Internet is dead and so, sort of, is R.

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Movie editor Barbara Vancheri: or 412-263-1632. Read her blog: First Published February 1, 2013 5:00 AM


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