The Reel: What ‘Warm Bodies’ lacks in gore, it makes up for in charm


Ben Conniff

If George A. Romero found it in his zombie-infected heart to do a romantic comedy, I think this would be his way of doing it.

In “Warm Bodies,” writer/director Jonathan Levine (“50/50”) tries to emulate the horror king by making his own entry into the zombie canon. While Romero loads up on gore and chooses to highlight the experiences of normal human survivors, Levine’s take is a bit more original.

Based on Issac Marion’s book of the same name, “Warm Bodies” is a comedy that follows “R” (Nicholas Hoult, “X-Men: First Class”), a zombie who’s looking for something more out of life. He’s tired of shuffling aimlessly around the airport, grunting at his friend Marcus (Rob Corddry, “Hot Tub Time Machine”) for weeks on end.

But R’s world gets turned upside down when he saves Julie (Teresa Palmer, “Take Me Home Tonight”) from a pack of his flesh-eating friends. What follows is a chain of events that might just bring hope to the entire undead world.

I know it sounds cheesy, and it is, but “Warm Bodies” is not like any zombie flick you’ve ever seen. There’s not an abundance of blood and guts, and it’s told from the point of view of a zombie.

Levine’s smart, albeit safe, writing lends adequate life to the living dead, giving star Nicholas Hoult plenty of witty narrations. But even though the dialogue doesn’t quite measure up in terms of edge, “Warm Bodies” is still the freshest zombie-comedy since “Zombieland”.

And as much as I enjoyed the film’s original approach, I kind of wish “Warm Bodies” was a little more graphic. I think this would put a wider smile on the faces of hardcore genre fans while also giving “Zombieland” a run for its money. For a zombie movie, “Warm Bodies” is far too tame.

But that’s not really the point, is it? “Warm Bodies” is supposed to be a love story. It’s a romantic comedy — with horror elements — that’s told through the eyes of a horror-genre antagonist.

The actors all have marvelous chemistry, and they’re perfect fits for their roles. All this sets “Warm Bodies” apart and makes it a joy to watch.

I think this is the first of multiple star vehicles for Nicholas Hoult in 2013, the next one being Bryan Singer’s “Jack the Giant Slayer” in March. If his charming turn as “R” is any indication, this kid is surely destined for great things. 

Aussie hottie Teresa Palmer is also a fine counterbalance as Julie and is as entertaining as she’s been in all her other work. (Notice the Shakespeare reference: “R” & Julie = Romeo & Juliet?)

So aside from the occasional schmaltz and a general lack of satisfying zombie violence, “Warm Bodies” is still a charmingly unique romantic-horror-comedy that avoids being written off as the next “Twilight” thanks to its smart script and well-rounded characters. It’s not quite a Romero classic or even the next “Zombieland,” but “Warm Bodies” is still a fun date movie that’s sure to please guys and girls alike.