Nicholas Hoult plays R, a zombie who cannot remember his full name. He shuffles around an airport with dry, witty narration filling his thoughts. M (Rob Corddry) is his best friend, and sometimes they get hungry and team up to go look for brains. During one of these meals out, R eats the brains of Perry (Dave Franco), and R finds Perry’s feelings for his girlfriend Julie (Teresa Palmer) becoming his own. R then saves Julie and hides her in his Wall-E-like shelter full of the remnants of human society.
Director Jonathan Levine made the indie coming-of-age film The Wackness, which was reasonably entertaining if not very original. His follow-up feature was the terrific 50/50, which was a great convergence of actors and script. Warm Bodies ends up somewhere between the two. The highlight of the film in terms of both actor and script is Nicholas Hoult. His depressed narration includes most of the best lines and Hoult manages to get across a lot of emotion despite sticking to the grey, dead features of the classic Hollywood zombie.
The supporting cast fits the film, but no one is trying too hard to make Warm Bodies a very serious film, which for a Rom-Zom-Com, is the best choice. Rob Corddry basically just plays himself, Teresa Palmer is a beautiful and relatable lead, and John Malkovich agreed to be in this movie, which is less impressive now that his recent work has included Transformers: Dark of the Moon and Jonah Hex.
As for the story itself, if R and Julie wasn’t enough of a hint, Perry sounds like Paris, R’s best friend is M, and Julie’s best friend wants to be a nurse. The star-crossed connections become painfully clear when R approaches Julie at her balcony. This is the main flaw of the film. Director Jonathan Levine keeps the focus on the Shakespeare romance instead of on the zombie comedy. This is only a problem because it places the audience in the awkward position of rooting for necrophilia, an obstacle that even the most dedicated romantic would have trouble overcoming.
Warm Bodies is an entertaining riff on Romeo and Juliet that seems very original at the start, but soon reveals its conventional side. It’s not gory enough to be a zombie classic, but it’s good enough to be the first worthwhile film of 2013.