‘Warm Bodies’ Review

Published 1 year ago by , Updated February 4th, 2013 at 10:39 pm,

Nicholas Hoult Warm Bodies Warm Bodies Review

When it was first announced that 50/50 director Jonathan Levine would helm an adaptation of the novel Warm Bodies many film-fans dismissed the project as Twilight with zombies. Still, anyone familiar with Isaac Marion’s book of the same name knows that the Warm Bodies story and tone could make for a fun (albeit campy) film – playing on traditional “undead” tropes. Unlike similar offerings that are targeted at love-struck teenagers and twenty-somethings, this movie is well-aware of its goofiness and instead of melodramatic romance, Warm Bodies actually uses that absurdity to tackle a larger topic: the power of living.

Does Levine’s focus, and lack of shirtless heartthrobs, land the film in an awkward middle ground? Where it’s too-lighthearted to please zombie movie lovers and without enough romance to draw-in viewers hoping for the next great supernatural power couple?

Unfortunately, yes but in this case that’s a good thing. Given Levine’s resume (which also includes 2008 favorite, The Wackness), it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Warm Bodies is actually a solid film – held back primarily by overarching consumer backlash against paranormal romance and zombies in Hollywood. On its own terms, Warm Bodies offers a funny and witty twist on living dead mythology without getting too bogged down in drawn-out, and self-indulgent, romance story lines. Some of the film’s larger ideas rely heavily on character cliches and setups that don’t have enough time to develop but Levine moves the proceedings at a steady pace and adds enough charming moments to keep the film alive (even if the romance is just undead).

Warm Bodies Teresa Palmer Nicholas Hoult Warm Bodies Review

Teresa Palmer and Nicholas Hoult in ‘Warm Bodies’

Warm Bodies centers around living corpse “R” (Nicholas Hoult), who no longer remembers his name or any other details from his “life.” Instead, he shambles around post-apocalyptic America ruminating on the state of his non-life, feeding on flesh, and grunting with his best undead friend “M” (Rob Corddry) at the airport bar. However, when R and his fellow zombies eat a group of still-human scavengers, he becomes captivated by one of the young survivors, Julie (Teresa Palmer). In an effort to save Julie from his zombie brethren, not to mention the terrifying “bonies” (zombies who have given up their humanity entirely), R helps his new-found crush escape and brings her to a secluded area of his home for refuge (in an abandoned airliner). To keep her safe and, selfishly, get to know her better, R hides Julie from the zombies and the bonies for days – supplying her with food and entertainment. Initially repulsed by the situation, Julie begins to trust and care for her protector – causing subtle changes in R and large ramifications for zombies and humans alike.

The setup of the film is absolutely thin – as is the “romance” between R and Julie. There’s no doubt that zombie purists will not approve of convenient changes to undead mythology, viewers will role their eyes at cheesy lines of dialogue, while others will have trouble suspending disbelief in a few underdeveloped character interactions. Yet, moviegoers who can accept the core premise and look past on-the-nose story beats will find that Warm Bodies is actually pretty entertaining and even heart-warming at times. It’s not a particularly smart love story but it makes intelligent use of genuinely likable characters and an endearing plot setup.

Nicholas Hoult literally shambles a fine line as R – in a performance that could have easily strayed into Razzie Award territory. Instead, the actor brings a lot of life to R without stepping too far in the other direction. After all, R is undead, his movements and ability to communicate stunted, but Hoult finds a way to successfully keep R on the same level as Julie – making it all the more believable that a human girl considers this corpse preferable to certain living people she also knows. At times, Hoult’s zombie mannerisms may come across a bit forced but, overall, his memorable moments outnumber (and outweigh) the awkward ones.

Warm Bodies Rob Corddry Nicholas Hoult Warm Bodies Review

The ‘corpses’: M (Rob Corddry) and R (Nicholas Hoult)

Similarly, Rob Corddry is a scene-stealer as best friend M – easily one of the most charming characters in the entire film. While Hoult is responsible for carrying the primary storyline to a satisfying conclusion, Corddry’s contributions are both humorous and heartening – with several crowd-pleasing one-liners. The film would not be nearly as successful without Corddry and, much like Hoult, the character is surprisingly impactful for someone that spends the majority of his onscreen time shambling around – communicating in grunts and stilted one-word responses.

Sadly, the “living” characters are much less captivating than their undead counterparts. Despite a competent performance from Palmer, Julie is mostly just a MacGuffin to push R outside of his comfort zone. Aside from a few exceptions, the character’s actions and feelings are designed to drive the plot, not add sensible or meaningful drama in the moment. As a result, the depiction is a major factor in the movie’s biggest misstep – a forced and underwhelming “romance” plot. On occasion, Julie does add meaningful elements to key commentaries that run through Warm Bodies - specifically complacency in both the corpse and human societies as well as a foggy definition of what it means to be “alive.”

Other human players, Perry (Dave Franco), Nora (Analeigh Tipton), and Julie’s father, General Grigio (John Malkovich), are resigned to familiar but narrow tropes. The characters are necessary for the overall “message” of the movie but, on their own, don’t carry significant weight or memorable payoff.

Warm Bodies Teresa Palmer Dave Franco Warm Bodies Review

The ‘living’: Nora (Analeigh Tipton), Julie (Teresa Palmer) and Perry (Dave Franco)

Ultimately, the success of Warm Bodies is heavily dependent on its attempts to twist and subvert zombie movie staples – meaning that moviegoers who are expecting explosive corpse slaying set pieces and gory carnage will absolutely be underwhelmed. The creepy “bonies” elevate tension in key scenes but, much like the human characters, they’re nondescript pawns with no function outside of the fundamental storyline. Instead, willing audiences will get a weird, but admittedly fun, character story. A story that includes glimpses of surprisingly smart social satire.

Not everyone will respond to the quirky plot but certain viewers are likely to enjoy Levine’s unapologetic attempts to make good on the bizarre setup. Zombie purists will have trouble overlooking alterations to undead genre conventions and supernatural romance enthusiasts may find the love story in Warm Bodies to be dead on arrival. However, open-minded movie-lovers with a diverse taste in brains movies may find a worthwhile experience in Levine’s blend of oddball moments, tongue-in-cheek humor, as well as a healthy dose of heart.

If you’re still on the fence about Warm Bodies, check out the trailer below. It contains MAJOR spoilers but does a decent job of capturing the film’s tone:

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Let us know what you thought of the film in the comment section below.

For an in-depth discussion of the film by the Screen Rant editors check out our Warm Bodies episode of the SR Underground podcast.

Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for future reviews, as well as movie, TV, and gaming news.

Warm Bodies runs 97 minutes and is Rated PG-13 for zombie violence and some language. Now playing in theaters.

Our Rating:

3 out of 5
(Good)

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34 Comments

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  1. Might see. Anything 3/5 or better entertains me.

  2. Me and my girlfriend saw the movie last night, we thought it was very good. It’s cool to see a change in the zombie genre. People are afraid of change, that’s all.

    • Shaun of the Dead was a change, and people weren’t afraid then.

  3. Going tomorrow. Just want to see a fun movie.

  4. I was slightly interested in this but it seems a little too focused on the love plot for my liking. I’ll give it a try when it comes out on dvd though.

  5. I’ve agreed to take my daughter to see this this weekend so I’m happy to hear that it’s not a complete mess because that’s what I was expecting…

  6. Excellent review, yet again, Ben. My girlfriend and I really want to see this. I do have one question, however. In the trailers, when R is talking to Julie, more specifically, in the scene where he is trying to teach her to walk like a zombie, it seems like (to me, anyway) that he may not actually be talking to her, he just thinks he’s talking to her. Is he really talking to her, or is that just in his head? Does that make sense?

    • R can talk more than just grunts, this is true even in the book and as the story progresses he is capable of better communication. Though a lot of the hilariousness of the book is the inner monologue from R and his struggles to communicate to Julie what he wants to say, Hopefully this remains in the movie.

      • Okay. Thanks. That’s what I thought, I just wanted to make sure. I would very much like to read the book. I think the concept is genius, and after getting caught up on The Walking Dead comics, I’m in need of a comical take on the genre.

      • Yeah, there is a lot of internal monologuing – which can be pretty entertaining at times.

        But, even at the outset, he does have very limited (one-word) communication capability. So he is actually talking to her.

        • Excellent. Seems like a huge laughfest. I can’t wait to see it.

  7. The book is a great read, and the humans play a bigger more “fleshed” out role in the story, but I am sure it is streamlined for sake of running time. I can’t wait to go see this one tomorrow, and hopefully they leave it open for the sequel that he is currently writing.

  8. im still not gonna see it in theaters as i am single this Valentines day, but i wouldnt mind renting it on a rainy day when it comes out. Good review.

    Glad to see there are still some surprises from Hollywood

  9. Ah John Malkovich, how far the mighty have fallen.

    • Even though I kinda liked this movie, I have to agree with you a thousand times over.

  10. This just looks stupid.

  11. Saw it tonight with my gf. I was pleasntly surprised. Good review! Love zombie movies overall but this felt more like a Romance/Zombie movie. Even though it took the whole movie for them to find that love. I really enjoyed it.

  12. If Walking Dead and Twilight had a baby it would be this movie. I could’ve waited for this to come out on Netflix so I give is a 2 out of 5

  13. While I most likely won’t see it in theaters, I do want to see this movie. From the commercials it looks to be a fun watch. It definitely poses a what if question to the established zombie lore and seems to do so in a non-serious way. Will definitely watch on Netflix.

  14. Went to the 10 pm show on Thursday night with the girlfriend. We both thought it was very solid. Nice to see something a bit different in the zombie genre. I love Teresa Palmer, she is just so gorgeous! Another good film from Jonathan Levine.(I love 50/50 and All the Boys Love Mandy Lane). I give it a 3.5/5

  15. Sweet! Was hoping for a decent review on this movie. Didn’t have super high hopes so I wasn’t expecting a 5. 3 is perfect. Will definitely be seeing this movie.

  16. The best “zom-romcom” is still Shaun of the Dead!! :D

  17. I saw the film first, then read this review. You can’t rely on reviews to judge a movie—see it your damn self.

    Anyway, the film was much better than I thought it would be. I don’t know if anyone here who has seen the film noticed certain references to another famous love story (NO, not Twilight). Maybe they weren’t intentional—though I think they are—but I made the connections and was like ‘Whoa!’. Great film to start off the year, since January didn’t start out so great.

  18. NECROPHILIA ewwwwww….

  19. Better than you would initially think it to be.

  20. I liked it. It wasn’t amazing, but then again, I never expected it to be. It was great for what it was, and I am glad that I went to see it. I think that 3/5 is a fair rating. I not going to give it 5/5 because that is just ridiculous. This is not 5/5 material. If you want to see a lighthearted romantic comedy, than I recommend this movie. It’s cheesy and funny. Has some bad language, but then again, what comedy nowadays doesn’t? People can’t help but compare this movie to Twilight, but that’s a mistake. Twilight took itself seriously. This movie, as the review mentioned, knew what it was and took advantage of it. Overall, it was good, and it’s a good date movie ( This is coming from personal experience ;D )

  21. I watched the movie and it is amazing. R looks hot even with his dead (literally dead) features. This movie just moved those vile and monstrous Zombies to the next level. It’s a feel good movie that will make you NOT want to leave. I feel all smiling and well…okay in-love. : )

    If you’re feeling lonely, alone, loveless or maybe just want to sit down and relax without thinking too much; I recommend this movie for you.

  22. The movie was amazing. Not as good as the book of course, which is beautifully written, but superbly acted and and edited on it’s own merit. I just can’t believe that non one ever oints out the Romeo and Juliet coorelation that is so obvious in it’s theme and not to mention the names of all the main characters. No, it is not a ZOMBIE movie, but definitely a must see!!! It is funny and poignant and fun!

  23. Good review. Check out mine at averagejoesmoviereview.blogspot.com

  24. I really enjoyed this film, not ground breaking but funny and enjoyable. Coddry isnt so annoying in this film, I think they could have gotten any throw off actor to play that role, I disagree with the review that he makes the film better. He has very small parts in it.

  25. I really was skeptical when I heard about this – and I thought there was definitely no way it could be anywhere close to as good as Shaun of the Dead, but it totally exceeded my expectations. Like Shaun of the Dead it was a dark zombie romcom, but it definitely had it’s own distinct tone, and had great acting all around.

    One area where it even exceeded Shaun of the Dead was in music – one of my favorite examples was when they used M83′s “Midnight City” during the great scene where R is “made up” to look like a human.

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  27. Ya know, sometimes seeing a preview is enough to tell a movie is going to suck wind

  28. thats how women like us . brainless and completely dependent of them.
    honestly this portrayal of true love is offensive to us men.
    maybe its time for new rising of patriarchat.

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