DVD Release Date: June 4, 2013
Theatrical Release Date: February 1, 2013
Rating: PG-13
Genre: Comedy, Horror, Romance
Run Time: 97 minutes
Director: Jonathan Levine
Actors: Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer, John Malkovich, Analeigh Tipton, Rob Corddry

Relationships can be so difficult... especially when you’re a zombie. A victim of the inevitable zombie apocalypse, "R" (Nicholas Hoult, X-Men: First Class), who can’t remember his real name anymore (a side effect of that whole death thing) just wants to connect with people. And his definition of "people" is pretty broad; it encompasses pretty much anything on two legs that's not one of the skeleton-like creatures he calls "boneys." "They’ll eat anything with a heartbeat," he muses. "I mean, I will too, but at least I’m conflicted about it."

That kind of quirky humor is a huge part of this oddly delightful film’s charm. Zombie movies have been around for decades, but how often has the zombie been the hero of a love story? R is definitely the good guy here, in spite of his unfortunate predilection for eating brains. After all, R didn’t ask to be a zombie; under that cold exterior he's a just lost, lonely guy looking for love. Then one day he spots Julie (Teresa Palmer, I Am Number Four) across a crowded room. Granted, the room is filled with crashing bodies and flying bullets, and Julie is doing her best to shoot him in the head, but for R it’s one enchanted evening. He saves Julie, takes her home with him, and sets something in motion that will change their world.

This could be the perfect Valentine’s Day date movie: action and zombies for him, romance for her, and a script will keep both of them laughing. And for those who like a little message with their movie, the film is full of sly social commentary, as when R, against a backdrop of self-absorbed, silent humans fixated on their cell phone screens, ponders how much better it must have been "before," during a time when humans could actually communicate and express their feelings.

While decidedly a romantic comedy, Warm Bodies does contain violent scenes and a few gruesome moments, mostly involving zombies’ dining habits. The camera doesn’t linger on the bloody bits too long or lovingly, but viewers should be prepared for mild gore. Fortunately, there’s enough humor to take any bad taste out of your mouth. Zombie purists may not approve, but this kinder, gentler tale should appeal to a broader audience.

If the zombie aspect of the story gives you a theological headache, think of it as a parable with the zombies standing in for the lepers of Jesus's time. Shunned and set apart from society, the zombies are victims, but so are the humans left to cower inside their walled city. Bereft of love, humans become emotional zombies. Given love, zombies might just become human.

Hoult’s R is as charming as a zombie can be—and in his case, that’s downright adorable. For a dead guy he has a highly entertaining internal monologue that some may find all too familiar. He’s surely not the first guy to stare at a pretty girl thinking, "Don't be creepy." Julie is a good match for him, despite the obvious difference in their vital signs. Her adventurous attitude is part rebellion against her father (John Malkovich, in what amounts to a cameo role) and part joie de vivre that's so infectious it can quicken even a zombie’s pulse. As Julie’s (human) friend Nora, Analeigh Tipton (Crazy Stupid Love) adds just the right amount of sass.

Hoult and Rob Corddry (Butter), who plays his zombie buddy, do a fine job of expressing the emotions of an emotionless "species." Their conversations may consist almost entirely of grunting noises (which is different from the majority of male conversations how, exactly?), but they’re capable of getting a point across. Watching them shuffle toward a new kind of life will surely melt any human’s heart.

It would be remiss not to point out the genius use of music in this movie. Not in recent memory have songs added as much to the story as they do here, and the zombie theme makes tunes such as Bruce Springsteen's "Hungry Heart" as funny as they are appropriate.

If you spot parallels between R and Julie’s romance and that of another famous pair of star-crossed lovers, that is by design. They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Who knows: if Shakespeare was writing today, his Romeo and Juliet may well have included zombies, too.

CAUTIONS:

  • Drug/Alcohol: Girl drinks a beer.
  • Language/Profanity: Pretty mild: it almost seemed the writers had a list of common profanities and carefully checked off each word once. A couple of words appeared several times, but not often: God’s name was taken in vain, the f-bomb dropped maybe twice, s-word, bit**, and he**.
  • Violence: It comes and goes, but violence happens throughout. Various guns are fired and hand-to-hand combat takes place. Zombies attack and bite humans, some brains consumed. One variety of zombies is mostly bones; both humans and zombies are killed (though zombies already dead, so…) Some scenes are intense but generally brief.
  • Sex/Nudity: Some teen kissing, a teen make-out session implied but not shown in detail. A zombie male watches a girl remove outer layer of clothing (from behind). No nudity.
  • Spiritual Themes: Love conquers all.

Publication date: February 1, 2013