Warm Bodies is a romcomzom (that’s a romantic comedy zombie film for those not in the know) focused on the comedy. It’s a wise choice since the romance happens between a living girl and a zombie boy. If the film went too serious, it would be unbearable. The over the top comedy, sight gags, and wordplay elevate the whole thing into a clever spin on Romeo & Juliet.
R is a zombie. It is the end of the world and the shambling dead far outnumber the living. R is capable of thought, reason, and even a few simple words. One day, he has an encounter with Julie, a living girl sent out of the walled-in living city to acquire medicine. Something clicks in R’s brain and he falls in love with Julie.
Writer/director Jonathan Levine adapts Isaac Marion’s YA novel into a very accessible and strange screenplay. There is a sharp, dry wit that runs throughout the entire film. Levine sticks with R’s first person narration from the novel but uses it as a tool to explore zombie angst. This is not post-production exposition to cover for narrative deficits. It’s a well-planned device to get the audience to empathize with a very uncommunicative leading character.
The biggest strength of the film is the production values. The design of the zombie makeup is really beautiful. With the right lighting and a little blood, the walking dead look menacing and dangerous. In everyday life, they’re just lost and confused former humans. It makes R’s journey all the more believable even before the makeup begins to shift from death to life.
The sets are perfect for the film. Airports without people always scream apocalypse so the decision to make R’s homebase an airport, specifically an airplane, is perfect. The airport is cast in drab shades of gray and the only zombie wearing color is R. You can’t take your eyes off of him in his home. Then when the wall of the city is revealed, it is just as gray and uninviting as the unlit airport.
The only big negative in the film is the music. There are some really clever moments with some very recognizable songs. These are big gags going into the last act and the have huge payoffs. The rest of the time, though, the music is a distraction. The original scoring sounds like old cellphones playing dubstep and the rest of the adapted soundtrack is thematically and tonally out of sync with the story.
The commitment of the entire cast, especially Rob Corddry as the second biggest zombie in the film, is what really elevates the feature. These actors are living these roles. It’s so taxing to stay in a consistent zombie shamble and they have to do everything from running to mundane day jobs in the hunched position of the walking dead. These are the moments that open up Warm Bodies into a very strong film. R and Juliet are the leads, but everyone else makes the film work.
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