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June 4, 2013

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On DVD/Blu-ray – Capsule Review: Warm Bodies (2013)

by HELEN GEIB

Warm Bodies (2013)

Romeo and Juliet and Zombies”. The best movie of the year so far is unexpectedly a representative of that most dreaded of contemporary cultural phenomena, the literary mash-up. High school educators and Hollywood alike persist in thinking that the target audience for the Shakespearean romance is the age of its doomed lovers. That’s still not true of Warm Bodies even with several years added to the characters’ ages and tragedy (mostly) replaced by comedy. The film’s older-skewing allegory is clearly established in the introductory scenes. It’s implied by the setting of an airport terminal inhabited by zombies imprisoned by their own non-lives, the walled enclave of the besieged remnant of human civilization, and the no man’s land that lies between. It’s made explicit by one of the movie’s typically smart, blink and you’ll miss it jokes: R ruminating on how wonderful it must have been in the old, pre-zombiefied days when people really connected with each other, his voiceover playing over a shot of a crowded public space populated by people isolated inside the bubbles emanating from their mobile devices*. Like last year’s polished indie gem Safety Not Guaranteed, Hollywood paragon Warm Bodies refuses to be categorized. Following the lead of its against-the-odds couple the story seamlessly blends genres that aren’t normally on speaking term. Lightly worn ironic commentary on modern alienation is the accompaniment to an entirely and patently sincere love story. Love in its infinite variety brings them all to life.

Extras are an audio commentary by director Jonathan Levine and stars Nicholas Hoult and Teresa Palmer, deleted scenes, a large number of behind-the-scenes short features, and a gag reel.

*Did the two teenage girls in the row in front of me share my ironic self-awareness as I asked them to stop texting close on the heels of this scene? I wondered, could they be texting each other while pretending to share the communal experience of watching a movie or was the act a tacit rebuke of the insufficiency of her friend’s silent companionship? It’s a shame we couldn’t laugh at the joke together. At least they put their phones away.

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2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Miriam
    Jun 6 2013

    Helen, you can’t have been more surprised than I was to find this a delightful movie. I’m not much into monster/horror stuff and I loathe the vampire mash-ups which have been a recent plague. But Warm Bodies is charming, so full of hopeful goodness that it might well have been titled Warm Hearts.

    The movie makes enough allusions and connections to Romeo and Juliet to be fun (how can you not love the balcony scene) but sensibly ignores most of the play. R & J has proved endlessly adaptable and resilient a story. Nineteenth century audiences were treated to a happy ending, the twentieth to New York gangs with music and Miami gangs without (but with a fabulous Pete Postelthwaite as Nurse). Zombies seem like more of a stretch, but they wisely kept the zombie schtick to a minimum and made it work.

  2. Jun 6 2013

    Is it a man vs woman thing? You, Miriam and Helen, seem to love this film while I was bored after 20 minutes. I even fast-forwarded the last 15 minutes.

    I didn’t know anything about this film. I went into it completely blind. I didn’t even know that it had zombies in it. If I had known that I wouldn’t have watched it, because nothing bores me more than zombies.

    It’s just that I simply couldn’t wrap my head around talking zombies. That there’s a semblance of consciousness left deep within and that they could be “reborn” again. It just didn’t work for me. Then there’s the plane that still, mysteriously, has electricity in it; the BMW that still has gasoline in it; etc.

    I know that a lot of people dug this film (critics included) but I found it as slow and interesting as its zombie characters. Plus, I really don’t like the whole Stockholm Syndrome thing in the first act…

    I’m honestly glad that I’m alone on this. :O)

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