Necrophilia. Hollywood, has it really come to this? Is this what happens when we allow “Twilight,” “True Blood,” and the like to succeed: the living and the dead locking lips? And yet, “Warm Bodies,” directed by Jonathan Levine, is a clever and wholly adorable rom-com—even if the hero can’t exactly take his love interest out for dinner.
“Warm Bodies” tells the story of R (Nicholas Hoult), a stunningly thoughtful zombie, and Julie (Teresa Palmer), the human girl he falls in love with after eating her boyfriend’s brain and gaining his memories; she happens to be the daughter of the zombie resistance chief. To be honest, the weakest part of the film is its premise, simply because of its absurdity. There’s dramatic slo-mo, zombie conversations consisting entirely of moaning, and ridiculously self-aware inner monologues. And some clichés are a little too much. A scene that sees Julie on a balcony and R hiding in the bushes—can you say painfully obvious Romeo and Juliet reference? But once you accept its absurdity, you can’t help but be won over.
Hoult is the star by far, giving R (pardon the pun) heart, and, astonishingly, a personality. His home, an abandoned airplane, is filled with a collection of human items, including a record player and a large selection of vinyl. His inner monologues give us even more insight into his ennui-filled mind, and his apathy at being a zombie. Palmer is perfectly fine as Julie, but not particularly special. Her strongest scenes are in her first few days with R, when she goes from fearful confusion to unexpected friendship. It’s a little bit like Stockholm Syndrome, but it feels genuine; R truly cares for her, draping a blanket over her when she sits down and putting on music he hopes she’ll enjoy.
Rob Corddry and Analeigh Tipton, as R and Julie’s best friends, respectively, manage to steal their limited scenes. Corddry’s character, M, is the second zombie whose heart begins to beat, and he helps R lead their fellow zombies to re-discover their humanity. He’s a gifted physical actor, telling more with a shuffle and a grimace than with his words. Tipton, better known to many as the babysitter from “Crazy, Stupid, Love,” here plays that same character with a side of kick-butt awesome. She’s snarky and knows her way around a gun, as well as providing a much-needed voice of reason.
This movie is camp done right. It’s silly and over-the-top, but has enough heart to ground it, and a cast that embraces its inanity with enthusiasm and aplomb. If rom-coms are too sappy for you, then try one that spatters blood and gore between the kisses.