Ever since the world was introduced to a certain sparkly-skinned vampire and his expressionless brunette cohort, it seems as if every demon, werewolf and mummy on the block has tried their turn at romance. It’s safe to say that we’re not exactly in want of any more half-baked paranormal romances; however, the new zombie film/romantic comedy “Warm Bodies” begs to differ.
This surprisingly touching love story of a boy (dead) and a girl (alive) defying their differences to save a world torn apart by violence hits all the right notes and sends some fresh new blood rushing through the veins of the zombie movie genre.
Our story begins with R (British actor Nicholas Hoult, recently spotted in “X-Men: First Class” and the hit UK TV series “Skins”), an undead teen who spends his days ambling through a deserted airport; his internal monologue paints the picture of a boy with a heart of gold stuck in the body of a monster. His only wish is to connect with someone, beyond the grunts and one-word conversations of his kind. He spends his nights in his own private airplane filled with treasures of the human world (vaguely reminiscent of the “Part of Your World” scene in “The Little Mermaid”) and narrates the events of his daily life with biting sarcasm and self-mockery. He’s basically a lonely, kicked puppy, and we feel for him from the get-go.
In comes Julie (played by Aussie actor Teresa Palmer), a very alive and very pretty blonde with great taste in combat boots and a soldier boyfriend, Perry (a stoic but gorgeous Dave Franco). She’s the daughter of the leader of one of the world’s last human outposts (John Malkovich, what are you doing in a zombie romcom?) and sets out to cross the city’s large metal fences into zombie territory and replenish supplies. Her team is quickly found and attacked by R and his band of hungry zombies; however, when R first sees her opening fire on him from across the room, he is overcome by her beauty and comes to a standstill. This doesn’t stop him, however, from slaughtering Perry and chomping on his brains, which gives R the ability to see Perry’s memories. Julie is one of the last survivors, and R brings it upon himself to keep her safe and disguises her as a zombie.
R brings Julie back to the airport, where she encounters skeletal zombies who “will eat anything with a heartbeat.” Albeit being afraid of him at first, R begins to charm Julie with his collection of vinyl records and his repeated attempts to protect her from harm. Her presence begins to, slowly but surely, bring his zombie heart back to life.
Now, I’m not saying that this is a movie to be taken completely seriously: it is an absolute cheeseball of a film, complete with questionable graphics and an ending that could be called from a mile away. It is, however, a genuinely engaging story about the perseverance of hope and second chances, with some moments of sheer brilliance and a good-looking cast to boot.
While we’re on the topic of second chances, “Warm Bodies” might be the reboot paranormal romance films and fiction need. Even though all of the dragons, witches and fairies have dug a pretty deep hole in terms of the amount of respect the genre seems to get, the honest credibility of the film’s enjoyable plot and impressive cast can help jumpstart the heart of the genre and bring it back to life.
Recommended: “Warm Bodies” is an enjoyable and refreshing film that might just be what the “paranormal romance” genre needs to avoid going stale.