In the opening scene of “Warm Bodies,” a pale, gangly boy with bloodshot eyes, disheveled hair and what looks like vomit crusted on his sweatshirt shuffles slowly across the screen, asking himself, “What am I doing with my life?”
No, this is not an exposé on the lost souls emerging from Baxter basement at 2 a.m. on a Saturday. This boy—the film’s protagonist—is a walking corpse who eats innocent people’s brains for lunch. And I found him to be one of the most endearing protagonists that I’ve encountered in a while.
The story takes place in a post-apocalyptic world in which our zombie hero “R” (Nicholas Hoult) and his comrades wander aimlessly around an abandoned airport, unable to interact beyond grunts and the occasional outing to snack on some humans.
But R wishes he could connect with people, and, when he meets the remarkably well-bathed Julie (Teresa Palmer), that is exactly what he begins to do.
Having taken a liking to Julie that not even his cannibalistic tendencies could prevent, R protects her from the less morally-conflicted zombies, and through their struggles the two develop a relationship that brings out R’s human side. Of course, this is no walk in the post-apocalyptic park. The pair runs into trouble with the human military, an especially icky class of zombies who have ripped their own skin off, and a seriously uncomfortable situation involving Julie’s ex-boyfriend (Dave Franco).
But despite this series of distressing predicaments, the best word I can find to describe this movie is, aptly enough, “heartwarming.”
Certainly “Warm Bodies” is at times twisted, bloody and gory—as any zombie movie should be. But these moments are tied together by a cohesive storyline that rises above the regular slew of zombie flicks and a restrained, awkwardly sweet connection between its leads that sets it apart from your everyday romance.
One of the most enjoyable features of the movie is its cast of young actors, who are likeable and multi-dimensional throughout. Hoult in particular does an impressive job of maintaining his broken speech and slow shuffle without instilling the same lethargy in his viewer.
The film also features a cameo by Rob Corddry, who—in this ensemble of relative unknowns—ends up as more of a distraction than a successful comedic addition.
Admittedly, the underlying message that love at first sight really can change the world (albeit one flesh-eating monster at a time) is a little over-played. But ultimately the film’s dry humor and shameless embrace of its own twisted nature won me over and let me enjoy this recycled plotline all the same.
Now we’ve all heard the familiar complaint that it is hard to find a movie for “him and her.” In fact, when I told a group of male friends that I wanted to go see a zombie movie, they asked, “What time?” Granted, when I added that it was about a zombie who falls in love with a human, they scoffed, “So this is zombie Twilight?”
While I was only able to convince one brave gentleman to accompany me, I can assure the skeptical zombie-enthusiasts of Bowdoin that this is not zombie Twilight by any stretch of the imagination. “Warm Bodies” offers a great deal more depth and genuine adventure than that.
It is nearly impossible to find a good old-fashioned zombie love story these days. “Warm Bodies” may be the first to succeed in bridging such seemingly disparate genres, making an enjoyable cinematic experience for all parties.
To top it all off, the film boasts witty dialogue (or inner monologue, in the case of R), a well-thought-out soundtrack and charming young stars. In my book, this made “Warm Bodies” an unexpectedly perfect date movie.
Okay, I admit that it might not be for everybody. Maybe you are more of the kissing-in-the-rain, sweeping music, Josh Duhamel-loving moviegoer who has been counting down the days until “Safe Haven” comes out in all its feverishly romantic glory February 14.
But if you are looking for a subtle, yet smart and sweet movie (with the occasional bout of flying intestines) for you and that special someone this Thursday, “Warm Bodies” is my pick.