Reviewed by Ian Forbes
By now, most of you must have read one of my many comments about the cinematic dumping ground that is January. It’s a mix of Oscar nominees getting released wide/re-released and dreadful “comedies” and “horror” films. The only good thing about the month for film critics is that it’s basically like summer vacation for grade school; we’ve seen all the award bait and no one really cares if we see half the crap that’s “new.”
Well, in order to side step the January curse, the romantic zombie comedy Warm Bodies relied on a technicality: it’s being released on February 1st. Of course, it also doesn’t hurt that the movie is incredibly fun, adorable, and well acted. Those things matter too, I guess.
Actually, I’m left a bit perplexed after watching a movie so early in the year that makes me wonder if it can hold a place in the 2013 Top Ten once all is said and done. It’s certainly going to remain one of my favorites though and I suppose I’ll just try to temper my expectations for what the rest of the year will deliver.
Getting to specifics, Warm Bodies is set in a post-apocalyptic world scenario where zombies have pretty much taken over the place. Humanity is the main entree on the menu and food supplies are running low. But there’s one zombie who dreams of a life that’s … well … alive. Played brilliantly by Nicholas Hoult, he takes a fancy to a human (Teresa Palmer) and saves her from becoming the dessert course. Over the course of trying to express his affections, the emotional changes begin an even greater metamorphosis and it could spell a shift in the human/zombie dynamic. (Zombie purists may take offense here or there but the conveniences taken help the story develop at a better pace.)
That’s all well and synopsized but the main point is that the chemistry between Hoult and Palmer is nothing short of endearing. Hoult continues to impress me (About a Boy, A Single Man) and manages to convey the conflict brewing inside of him. From his shuffle, to his run, to his carriage, to something so minor as sticking to the choice of not blinking; all of it creates this wonderful physicality that contrasts with the hope and longing in his eyes as he tries to connect with Palmer. And for her part, she is alluring and fiery and vulnerable and everything that makes for a compelling love interest.
Director Jonathan Levine didn’t do much to impress me with The Wackness but between 50/50 and now this, I’m now putting him on my radar. He’s able to frame the characters in a relatable light and balance the personal story amidst a larger context – whether it’s cancer or a zombie apocalypse. There are some scares (keep in mind I’m a huge wuss) but they’re counterbalanced by the charm of Hoult and Palmer’s relationship and a sizable amount of laughs (Rob Corddry’s involvement being a big part of that).
Unless you’re dead inside or can’t get past the zombie scare factor, there really isn’t any other movie out right now worth seeing more than this. It’s entertainment and good filmmaking all rolled up into one. I’m still blown away by seeing such a quality movie so early in a year and now I’ve got my fingers crossed that this is a sign of things to come in 2013. And once this hits the home market, pair this with Zombieland and make it a ridiculously fun night of the undead.
Warm Bodies hits theaters on February 1, 2013 and is rated PG-13 for zombie violence and some language.
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