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Thursday, June 6, 2013

Review: Warm Bodies

Not Your Typical Zombie Movie

By Chris Sabga

Release Date: February 1, 2013 – U.S.
Rating: PG-13
Genre: Comedy, Horror, Romance
Running Time: 98 minutes
Director: Jonathan Levine    
Writers: Jonathan Levine (screenplay), 
Isaac Marion (novel)
Cast: Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer, 
Analeigh Tipton, Rob Corddry, 
Dave Franco, John Malkovich

Zombies are dead and eat human brains, but other than that, they're just like you and I.

In "Warm Bodies," the world has been overtaken by the undead. The cause is unknown, but the effect is obvious: zombies now outnumber people. The surviving humans have been plunged into an apocalyptic wasteland. Teenagers are turned into trained soldiers.

In other words, the setup for every zombie movie ever made.

Not so fast! Right from the very beginning, it's obvious that "Warm Bodies" isn't your ordinary, everyday flick about the sluggishly slow. The movie starts out with a narration from a teenage boy named R (Nicholas Hoult, "About a Boy"). He's one of the zombies. Narration from a zombie? Well, that's unusual.

R's best friend is M (Rob Corddry, not Judi Dench). You can see his pain and hopelessness. Their "rapport" is one of the highlights of the film. It's a rare dramatic role for Corddry, and he nails it!

But R is different. That becomes obvious after he encounters Perry (Dave Franco, brother of James), who tries to kill him. He's one of those teenage soldiers I mentioned above. With him are his girlfriend, Julie (Teresa Palmer), and her best friend, Nora (Analeigh Tipton, who was great as the babysitter in "Crazy, Stupid, Love"). They're also soldiers. Times are tough!

They're under the command of Julie's dad (John Malkovich). Years of tragedy have made him lose perspective. He has become obsessed with wiping out the zombie plague. Everything else is secondary – including what's left of his family.

R has an opportunity to kill Julie, but he protects her instead. Not typical zombie-like behavior, but then, there's nothing typical about "Warm Bodies" at all. The friendship that develops between R and Julie is one of the reasons why. Julie isn't the pathetic, fawning Bella Swan of the "Twilight" series, who trips over herself to inhale the fumes of her pale, sparkling, distant, emotionally abusive vampire lover.

Even though R is among the walking dead and Julie is a frightened girl, they still somehow manage to make a typical teenage connection. In many ways, R's altered state symbolizes the awkwardness and anxiety that come with being that age. Using a zombie backdrop to explore those complex feelings and emotions is a flat-out brilliant storytelling device.

I'll be perfectly honest: I hate zombies in general. They're slow, boring, and have no personality. I go out of my way to avoid anything featuring these brainless mutants from the monster kingdom's third world. I'm told "The Walking Dead" is amazing television, and I will give in and watch it eventually. I also have very little interest in the upcoming "World War Z" with Brad Pitt. I'll keep an open mind though. Maybe if it were "World War V" instead and featured vampires, I would care more.

But "Warm Bodies" won me over. It's one of the most interesting, creative takes on the zombie genre that I've ever seen. 

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