Sunday, March 17, 2013

R Prefers Warm Bodies Over Brains: A Movie Review

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Director: Jonathan Levine.

Writers: Isaac Marion and Jonathan Levine.

Cast: Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer, Analeigh Tipton, Rob Corddry and Dave Franco.

This reviewer is getting to the party a little late on Warm Bodies. This zombie film released in theatres back in February. However, this romantic comedy modernizes the Shakespearean Romeo and Juliet storyline, but places the film in a zombie apocalypse. In this chaotic climate, the protagonist and relaxed hero is able to reanimate himself, with help from Julie (Teresa Palmer) and love. This title is sometimes overly sappy; yet, director Jonathan Levine's (All the Boys Love Mandy Lane) latest film is a light-hearted romp with R (Nicholas Hoult), an unusual and evolving zombie.

The film's story begins in the aftermath of a biological hazard, or some other dire catastrophe. Here, R wanders about, going through his undead routine. He shuffles to and fro, while finding time to moan at his friend, M (Rob Corddry). Events get exciting when R is on the hunt for some living meat. Not much later, R and his undead friends stumble across some survivors in search of medical supplies. The slaughter favours R and company, with R immediately enamored with the very living Julie. The protagonist takes it upon himself to save her life, after eating Julie's boyfriend. Together, they form a compassionate bound in this continuously hostile environment.

Levine's screenplay focuses more on the romantic elements than the horror ones, though. This title offers few scares or thrills. The darkest the film gets is with the introduction of the boneys. These CGI created monstrosities seem lifted from Francis Lawrence's I Am Legend. They are slim and fast, but rarely threatening. As well, the PG-13 rating for this film means that there is little to no gore. Blood effects are rarely needed. And, the horror genre in this film is mostly on the periphery and in the scenery.

The genre emphasis is placed more in the romantic comedy arena. The characters R and Julie (Romeo and Juliet) are in most of the film's scenes. Their dalliance is often funny and light. Their bond is at the heart of the film as R tries to rediscover his humanity. He finds life through his pursuit of Julie. And, the film's central premise involves romance overcoming several obstacles, which is reminiscent of a much older story.

The most compelling aspect in the film involves R's character arc. Generally, a character arc involves the protagonist meeting a challenge and defeating it, or being defeated by it. R's challenge is to overcome his zombiedom, which is unusual. Few films have tackled the undead revitalizing themselves. And, it is interesting to see R work through his struggles as he seeks out something outside of shambling, moaning and eating brains. Fans might want to root for R standing up against a whole host of obstacles.

Warm Bodies is a light comedy, which is often witty and consistently enjoyable. Levine's latest is well shot and the production values are high. The acting is equally well done. While the film's story is lacking thrills or major conflicts, the romantic and comedic elements are well written. This zombie tale brings a lot of life with its story and film fans are encouraged to enjoy the talent onscreen.

Overall: 7.25 out of 10 (interesting characters, minor conflicts, well crafted sets, the villains are artificial and unthreatening).

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