The shorthand description of this movie doesn’t do it justice. Saying that it’s about a young woman who falls in love with a zombie makes it sound like a heavy-breathing variation on Twilight. It’s better than that. Writer-director Jonathan Levine, who won me over with his 2008 feature The Wackness, has brought warmth and a quirky sense of humor to the story adapted from Isaac Marion’s novel. He’s muted the elements of horror and violence and, best of all, he’s cast two exceptionally appealing actors in the leading roles: Nicholas Hoult and Teresa Palmer. (If you can’t easily place them, Hoult is the former child actor from About a Boy who’s one of the new generation of X Men. Palmer is a beautiful Aussie actress who’s been playing American ingénues in such films as The Sorcerer’s Apprentice and I Am Number Four.)
Hoult narrates the story and lays out its premise for us. Since becoming one of the undead he can barely speak, so this inner monologue is essential to understanding his character, who has yearnings and longings…especially once he meets Palmer. She happens to be the daughter of the President (John Malkovich), who’s trying to protect what’s left of humanity—now sequestered behind a huge city wall—and has a zero-tolerance policy toward zombies. Rob Corddry plays Hoult’s only friend among the shambling zombie population.
Warm Bodies is a love story set against the backdrop of a bleak future world…but ultimately it offers a ray of hope. It’s simple, even simplistic at times, but its off-kilter comedy and the sheer likability of its lead characters make it entertaining. It’s a bit slow at times and soft around the center, but I had fun watching it.