Warm Bodies [Blu-ray + Digital]
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A funny new twist on a classic love story, WARM BODIES is a poignant tale about the power of human connection. After a zombie epidemic, R (a highly unusual zombie) encounters Julie (a human survivor), and rescues her from a zombie attack. Julie sees that R is different from the other zombies, and as the two form a special relationship in their struggle for survival, R becomes increasingly more human -- setting off an exciting, romantic, and often comical chain of events that begins to transform the other zombies and maybe even the whole lifeless world.
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It's set in the near future after some strange virus left a good portion of the world's population "undead." Naturally, those who have not been infected have sealed themselves away from the others for their own protection. In this movie, a normal girl has a chance encounter with dangerous zombies, one of whom eats her boyfriend's brain and develops the feelings for the girl that were housed there. They're drawn together and love prevails over all, of course.
Obviously, this would be a great date movie for teens, but it seems a bit more than that, too. It has a depth of symbolism that is intellectually satisfying as much as it is emotionally satisfying. It's definitely worth watching if you want to believe in the power of love.
Jokes still worked.
Future me: watch again but only maybe....like maybe a couple years or more from now.
I don't know that WARM BODIES reinvents the zombie genre. The back of my brain asserts that somewhen before was a similar premise. Diehard zombie purists should maybe stay away from this one lest they suffer a string of apoplexies. Me, I appreciate what WARM BODIES was going for, appreciate its going out on a limb. A zombie flick with a warm beating heart? Refreshing.
Uniquely, our point-of-entry character is a rotter. Eight years into the zombie apocalypse, 'R' can't recall much of his past life. He posits that his name may start with an 'R'. We're right away alerted to the film's central conceit - that there may yet be a vestige of life, a spark of awareness, in these shambling revenants. R's wry internal monologue informs us of his loneliness and general sense of ennui and his regret at having to munch on humans but that, hey, he's gotta do what he's gotta do.
Everything changes when R saves Julie (Teresa Palmer), a human girl out foraging, from an attack from his ghoulish peeps. The relationship they then fashion sets into motion events that irrevocably reshapes their post-apocalyptic world. That's if Julie's overprotective, militant dad (John Malkovich) doesn't fire a slug into R's brain. I know, right? Dads.
If I had to bag on the movie, it'd be that Malkovich is woefully underused in it. Malkovich should've been allowed to dig deeper into his bag of tricks.
WARM BODIES is very much a zombie comedy, and well-constructed. It does hold back on the gore, so the gorehounds will walk away seething. But I really liked it. Not only did I care about R and Julie, but I also grew invested in two ancillary characters - Julie's jaunty best pal Nora (Analeigh Tipton) and R's best undead pal M (Rob Corddry), with whom R engages in sessions of guttural "dialogue" at the airport bar. Corddry, in particular, is so good at what he does, it's gratifying that Jonathan Levine, who directed and wrote the screenplay, bestows upon M his own transformative story arc.
And to present an alternative flavor, there's the action element. As R gradually continues to evolve and we glimpse a glimmer of hope, after all, there at the horizon for what's left of humanity, there is, as well, an escalation in dread and suspense as man's last outpost is threatened to be overrun by the Boneys, these skeletal reflections of the still fleshy zombies. Boneys are zombies who'd fully surrendered to despair and had sloughed off their skin and are become even more terrifying predators. In this undead hierarchy, regular zombies aren't the top-of-the-food chain alphas. In the DVD's bonus features, Nicholas Hoult describes the Boneys as "kind of like the bullies at school." Heh.
If you've a literary bone in you, the allusions to Romeo & Juliet can't have passed unnoticed. At its most obvious, there are the two lead characters' names. There is even a balcony scene. I don't think anyone's trying to be subtle about it. A zombie story with Shakespearean underpinnings? I think the good folks at Merchant Ivory just developed their own boneys.
It's cold to pan a movie that takes risks, so I won't. Besides, WARM BODIES took bold risks that mostly paid off. I relished the offbeat elements, the quirky humor that was individual to this film. It's good times whenever R tries to communicate with Julie only to be continuously trapped and frustrated by clichéd "zombie speak." There's hilarity but also pathos brought about by this dichotomy - of R's precise internal articulation versus his sad stabs at vocalization. Perhaps one of the film's best lines spools out of one such mortifying moment as R laments: "This date is not going well. I want to die all over again."
Nicholas Hoult does a bang-up job of capturing the all-too-human awkwardness of crushing on someone even as he retains enough believability to sell his walking dead bits. Hoult projects a wistfulness and a way of being still that lend themselves well to the uniqueness of his zombie character. I wish he were even more in an advanced state of decay, but, hey, you have to give Julie something to work with. He couldn't be too revolting. Teresa Palmer, who was so badass as Six in I AM NUMBER FOUR, gets moments to show that she's still a captivating onscreen presence and still a girl to be reckoned with. And, yes, the bulk of the film's very best moments center around Julie and R interacting. It's such a peculiar love story, and I did spend much of the film wondering how in hell they were going to pull it off. How they pull it off is just one more grace note in a film that doesn't shy away from breaking conventions. A dead boy on a quest for true love, abetted by a kickass soundtrack? Yeah, man, I'm down.
The DVD's bonus stuff:
- Audio Commentary with screenwriter/director Jonathan Levine and actors Nicholas Hoult and Teresa Palmer
- 9 Deleted Scenes with Optional Audio Commentary with Jonathan Levine (totaling 00:11:10 minutes)
- Shrug & Groan Gag Reel (00:05:07 minutes)
- "Boy Meets, Er, Doesn't Eat Girl" - charts the development of Isaac Marion's novel and the film adaptation (00:09:49 minutes)
- "R & J" - casting R and Julie and exploring their love story (00:16:20)
- "A Little Less Dead" - about the acting ensemble (00:16:40)
- "Extreme Zombie Makeover!" - about the make-up effects (00:10:10)
- "A Wreck in Progress" - about the production design and set locations in Montreal (00:14:57)
- "Bustin' Caps" - exploring the film's action elements - weapons and stunts (00:10:08)
- "Beware the Boneys" - visualizing and rendering the boneys (00:07:03)
- "Whimsical Sweetness: Teresa Palmer's WARM BODIES Home Movies" (00:12:37)
- Zombie Acting Tips with Rob Corddry (00:04:43)
- Theatrical Trailer
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