Zombies have become such a huge pop-culture phenomenon that we were bound to get a zombie-themed romance one of these days. “Warm Bodies” is just that, a zombie boy meets human girl love story that puts a post-apocalyptic spin on Romeo and Juliet. The movie is funny and charming, but it's never scary. It doesn't quite reach the comedic heights of “Shaun of the Dead” and “Zombieland”.
To avoid grossing everyone out, the filmmakers have wisely chosen to give the zombie boy, named simply R (Nicholas Hoult), human characteristics. (Imagine making out with one of those icky undead folks on the hit TV show “The Walking Dead” – eww.) R narrates the tale, and though he can only manage a few grunts in conversations with people and fellow zombies, he still has plenty of thoughts floating through his decomposing head. (“Nailed it,” R says in voice-over after an expertly handled social encounter.)
R spends his days wandering around the airport looking for food (brains are his favorite) and palling around with his best friend, M (the hilarious Rob Corddry). One day, R meets Julie (Teresa Palmer), who happens to be the daughter of the human resistance leader, Colonel Grigio (John Malkovich, who should have been given more to do here). It's love at first sight for R, but Julie takes some convincing, what with R being a zombie and all. Also hurting his chances: the fact that he ate her boyfriend, though, luckily for R, Julie doesn't know that.
Hoult and Palmer are absolutely adorable together. Both get a lot of laughs in scenes showing R's awkward courtship of Julie. They make us root for this unlikely relationship to work out somehow. References to Shakespeare's tragic love story abound. The names R and Julie are just abbreviated versions of Romeo and Juliet, after all. There's even a balcony scene with Julie's friend, Nora (Analeigh Tipton), cast in the role of Nurse.
In addition to Julie's zombie-killing dad, the couple has to contend with Boneys, menacing zombies who've had all their skin ripped off. The Boneys aren't very scary, nor are they particularly noteworthy as special effects. A much cooler effect is the one that shows R's heart glowing through his chest as he starts to become human. We've never seen a zombie quite like this before. Sure, R eats people's brains, but what he likes most about doing that is it gives him access to the person's memories. Genre purists might balk at a zombie with feelings in a movie that lacks real scares, but scaring you silly isn't really what “Warm Bodies” is about. It aims for a sweet spot and, as R would say, it nails it.
“Warm Bodies” is playing this weekend at the Augusta Historic Theatre, 523 State Street. Showtime is 7:30pm on Saturday and 2pm on Sunday. Tickets are $6.
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Stephen is an AHS graduate who studied film and journalism in college. He thinks George A. Romero's “Night of the Living Dead” is the best zombie movie ever made. He lives in Wichita.