Funny, poignant, sometimes sappy and sincere, “Warm Bodies” is a zombie movie for people who don’t like zombie movies. It’s a romantic-comedy about flesh-eaters.
BY MIKE CAVALIERE | ASSOCIATE EDITOR
As our protagonist, a zombie named R, smashes a skull onto concrete to get to the brains inside, his narration admits that he’s feeling pretty conflicted about this whole ordeal.
It’s not that he wants to hurt this guy, he tells us. It’s just, the brains are the best part. When zombies eat a brain, they get all of the memories and feelings that come along with it. They get to remember what it was like to be human.
They get to feel alive again.
This is a level of sentimentality you just don’t see in zombie movies. In a washed-out frame, silver-lit and dull, R gobbles up his victim’s memories. And then we flash into vibrant color. The burn and warmth of fireworks. The sweet sting of getting punched in the nose for the first time. The butterflies the come with telling someone beautiful you love them.
Even though it may be getting played, I’m a fan of the zombie genre. It's OK to kill these monsters in fun, gruesome ways. They work as metaphors. They're great for driving character development. But not until “Warm Bodies” have I come across a story in this canon that aspires to be beautiful, let alone achieves beauty.
But “Warm Bodies” does.
See, it wasn't plague or sickness that turned the humans in this world into walking corpses. It’s more that they just sort of unlearned how to be alive. It happened while they were distracted, scrolling through their smartphones when they should have been talking, and touching and feeling.
In its opening scenes, we learn that R thinks like a human but acts like a zombie — in that, even though he wants more, basically all he can do to connect with people is grunt and stare. This makes him lonely, and before he knows it, he’s furnishing his makeshift home inside of an abandoned airplane with trinkets and vinyl records he finds around the city. And this helps.
Think “Wall-E,” except instead of a robot all alone in outer space, it’s a pale, blood-spattered zombie, all alone in an airport crowded with other pale, blood-spattered zombies.
Don’t think too much about all the logistics. Over time, R starts to talk, to feel, to care about things. He’s still a zombie, but he meets a girl, and this changes him. He changes her. They make each other better.
Inevitably, comparisons to "Twilight" are going to happen here. But unlike the "Twilight" series, "Warm Bodies" transcends its genre. It really is touching. It will make you tingle, sometimes even in spite of yourself. And that’s good.
Hold onto to that tingle. It’s what reminds us we’re alive.
“Warm Bodies” (PG-13, 1 hr 37 minutes)
Director: Jonathan Levine
Released: Feb. 1
**** (of five)
“Warm Bodies” earns points for heart, originality and a ton of great, quirky music. If you didn’t make it out to opening weekend, consider this your second chance.
Rotten Tomatoes 76% fresh (of 101 critics)
IMDB 7.4/10 (of 5,622 fans)
Richard Roeper ***.5 (out of four)
Peter Travers ** (out of four)