“Warm Bodies”: the zom-com is dead


Summit Entertainment

A face only a no one could love

Admit it. When you first saw the advertisements for this movie, you were intrigued: a zombie that falls in love with a girl? This either has to be a jab at the “Twilight” movies and the subsequent monster-falls-for-girl rip-offs that it spawned, or a quirky comedy that uses the zombie apocalypse as a backdrop for hilarious dialogue, like “Zombieland” or “Shaun of the Dead.”

Well, I am sorry to say that as much as “Warm Bodies” wants to be “Zombieland,” and it is painfully obvious that it wants to be, the film falls so short that it is almost morbidly entertaining. But it isn’t so horrible as to be good again, as bad movies often are.

In fact, aside from the awfulness that is “Warm Bodies,” the movie is also quite forgettable. After this review, I probably won’t remember this film beyond “that really stupid ZomCom with vapid teenagers –and John Malkovich–.”

Getting right down to it though, “Warm Bodies” has an interesting concept that just collapses under its violation of its own internal logic and isn’t charming or funny enough to outweigh it.

Here’s the plot summed up in one sentence: A zombie eats a guy’s brain, absorbs his memories, falls in love with the guy’s girlfriend, kidnaps the girlfriend, and then slowly becomes alive again through the power of love.

No, really. That’s it.

We have a problem already. Tonally, we have a movie that can’t decide if it wants to appeal to the jaded, dryly satirical generation that usually goes for these ZomComs, or to the squealing tweens that the Disney channel has stupefied with its chaste love movies.

The very premise of the movie is horrifying, and the main character (a zombie who goes by the letter “R”) eats people. I cannot stress that enough. He isn’t a vegan Meyerpire like the (air-quote) vampires in “Twilight,” or a misunderstood misanthrope that is secretly a brooding hunk like that dude from “Beastly.”

He is a full-on zombie, who finds people and eats them.

He is incapable of full rational thought, let alone complex emotions and planning. And yet, the second he sees Teresa Palmer, the oddly model-gorgeous (the zombie apocalypse has been on for about eight years, so…yeah) blonde that will be our main love interest, he feels compelled to save her from his flesh-eating brethren, because love. Nicholas Hoult just isn’t that strong of a subtle actor to pull this off.

Granted, he had to walk a tight line between mindless zombie and infatuated love-slave, but there are plenty of young actors that have the subtle nuance to do something like that in their performance, and he just isn’t one of them.

To top that unpleasantness off, Hoult narrates the entire film as if he is some apathetic, former idealist just looking for love in a Zach Braff movie. And it just doesn’t work. Awful things are happening on screen, and there hasn’t been enough setup or absurdist switch-up to make the contrast funny.

And even someone who might have brought the movie up with his mere presence, the magnificently mad John Malkovich, is woefully wasted as the standard over-controlling jingoistic father to Teresa Palmer. He is just so cookie cutter. I can’t remember one Malkovich line in the whole film. They might as well have gotten anyone to play that role. Anyone. The material is that bland, that the actor doesn’t matter.

As long as there is forced conflict in the classic romantic comedy formula, “Warm Bodies” is happy. But, unlike other romantic comedies, in this particular instance: The jerk dad is right. He isn’t being over-protective. He’s just out being a 2-D BAD GUY. He is acting as the leader of one of the last enclaves of uninfected humans in the world.

Again, the main character kills and eats people. Yes, he stops during the course of the movie because love conquers all (even death and cannibalism it seems).

Malkovich –his character had a name, but I can’t remember it– is completely justified in fearing R and wanting his daughter to stay away. And the other antagonists of the movie, the de-skinned zombies called Bonies (yes, har har har), are basically just ultra-zombies. And being completely faceless, and personality-less, they add nothing to the central romantic complications.

This movie is bad. Really bad. In fact, I’m going to flat-out say that this is the worst movie of the new year, so far. I’m sure that there will be some movie coming up soon that will just piss me right off, but until that time, this one is going into a special place in Awful Movie Hell. Right next to “Transmorphers” and “Surf Ninjas.”

Do not go see this movie. Let it die, and stay dead.