Does this zombie rom-com warm your hearts or cool it down?
Zombies are the new vampires (after vampires became the new zombies). With the walking dead taking over media industries, interest in zombies is at an all-time high in recent years. With straight-up zombie stories to parodies running wild, there's room for some changes to the formula. In comes Warm Bodies, a romantic comedy told from the perspective of a zombie. Sounds like compelling stuff, doesn't it?
...doesn't it? Hello? Is this thing on?
Years after an unknown plague turns the majority of the world's population into zombie-like beings (referred to as corpses), small groups of survivors establish walled settlements to ensure their survival. Of course, Warm Bodies isn't about the survivors, but one of the corpses, known only as R (Nicholas Hoult). While his thoughts are coherent and told through voice-overs, the most R can outwardly convey are a few grunts and struggled words.
However, when a group of survivors led by a resistance group leader's (John Malkovich) daughter Julie (Teresa Palmer) and her boyfriend Perry (Dave Franco) infiltrate an airport where R and a group of corpses reside, things change inside R when he first lays eyes on Julie. After Perry is killed and has his brains eaten by R, R begins to absorb Perry's memories and emotions, further driving his love for Julie. After taking her captive, the two form an awkward friendship that has the potential to change relations between the human survivors and the corpses... even if it attracts the ruthless bonies, zombies who've given up all notions of life.
The most captivating aspect about Warm Bodies is not so much the love story angle, but the fact that the film is told from R's perspective. Little humorous anecdotes are inserted where R is mentally competent, but physically unable to do what his mind wants him to, such as trying to act smooth in front of Julie, but ending up looking creepy. However, the twist that writer/director (as well as Warm Bodies novel author Isaac Marion) throws in to change zombie mythos is ultimately what weighs the film down.
Zombies, in the loose canonical sense, are afflicted humans, some dead, some alive, with no real ability to think. Warm Bodies spins this established mythology on its head by introducing a character that CAN think, but can't match his thoughts. However, as his love for Julie grows, he begins to gain more sentience, leading to a heightened ability to think and talk. It's a bit of a stretch (and explains the extremely cheesy title), but... understandable. What's not understandable, however, is how this exact same development affects the rest of R's immediate corpse buddies, including his best friend M (Rob Corddry).
What began as an interesting twist in zombie mythology becomes a ridiculous deus ex machina. It doesn't help that the romance between R and Julie is so boring and predictable. Just imagine any other teenage rom com where one party initially resists, but eventually relents to the attention they're given. The only difference here is that one party is a zombie unable to express his feelings or emotions without grunting. There are subtle cues to Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, the most obvious being the two leads' names, but such a nuance doesn't serve as much more as a cute little literary reference.
Warm Bodies is being distributed by Summit Entertainment, the studio behind Twlight. In an effort to find the next Twlight that is nothing like Twilight, all they ended up doing was finding a slightly funnier, slightly more captivating Twilight film, albeit with zombies and more emotion. The fleeting, legitimately funny scenes aren't enough to elevate Warm Bodies beyond a reactionary "meh." Consider my heart cold.