If you’re going to make a zombie-centric movie at this point, you’d better have something special. Straight-up horror movies are a dime a dozen — and now outdone by TV's The Walking Dead anyway — and comedic riffs have long been popular as well.
R (Nicholas Hoult) is one of a horde of zombies mindlessly shuffling around an airport after an apocalypse has decimated much of humankind. R narrates the story through a quite lucid voiceover, although in real life he’s able to do little more than grunt and moan.
Warm Bodies abides by some established zombie conventions while adding in its own twists.
When he encounters Julie (Teresa Palmer) while on a feeding spree, things start to change. Instantly smitten, he rescues her instead of eating her, taking her back to his home, an abandoned airplane.
He ostensibly does this to keep her safe from other zombies and so-called “bonies” — zombies that have given up all pretenses of being human at all — but it’s clear he has more than security on his addled mind.
Like any good zombie movie, Warm Bodies abides by some established zombie conventions while adding in its own twists. Zombies move with the familiar slow gait, but they are capable of great speed when a situation calls for urgency. Brains are still the food of choice, but only because they provide a glimpse into the memories of the person they are eating.
Of course, the biggest twist is that a zombie and a human could have any kind of relationship whatsoever. Writer/director Jonathan Levine (50/50) does a great job of selling the pairing of R and Julie. He never forces the issue, letting it slowly evolve to the point that having her fall for him seems perfectly natural.
One of the biggest keys to the relationship’s success is Hoult’s performance. Right from the start, he puts just the faintest twinkle in those dead eyes to let you know that R is different from other zombies. He keeps adding little flourishes throughout the film that lead to a character that’s fully fleshed out in every sense of the word.
Palmer is great as the unwitting object of zombie affection. Her reactions to certain turns of events lead to some of the film’s best moments. Also strong are John Malkovich as the leader of the surviving humans and Julie’s father, and Rob Corddry as M (R’s best friend).
Warm Bodies is unlike any romantic comedy you’ve ever seen, delivering a clever film capable of warming even the coldest of hearts.