Love is blind.
In Jonathan Levine’s post-apocalyptic romantic comedy based on the blackly humorous book by Isaac Marion, it’s certainly a little cross-eyed as a feisty teenager sparks an unexpected attraction to a zombie.
Warm Bodies is a refreshing twist on Romeo And Juliet, enhanced with solid digital effects to unleash an army of ravenous skeletons known as “bonies” in action sequences that punctuate the burgeoning affections of these unlikely star-crossed lovers.
The film opens in the aftermath of the terrible epidemic, which has reduced most of the population to shuffling corpses incapable of speech or feeling.
Survivors of the disaster are crammed inside a high-walled metropolis patrolled by General Grigio (John Malkovich) and his gun-toting troops.
The general’s feisty teenager daughter, Julie (Teresa Palmer), ventures into the dead zone with her boyfriend Perry (Dave Franco) and best friend Nora (Analeigh Tipton), where they come under attack from zombie buddies R (Nicholas Hoult) and M (Rob Corddry).
R kills Perry and devours the boyfriend’s brain, which transfers memories of Julie.
Something stirs within the zombie and he rebels against his carnivorous nature to protect the terrified girlfriend from the marauding hordes.
Holed up in R’s hideaway aboard an abandoned airplane, Julie slowly comes to trust her unlikely protector.
“There are a lot of ways to get to know a person,” concedes R in droll voiceover. “Eating a person’s boyfriend’s brains is one of the less orthodox ones.”
Romance catalyses a remarkable physical transformation in R, suggesting there might be a cure to the plague.
Warm Bodies is surprisingly sweet, anchored by an endearing performance from Hoult as the shuffling predator, who hankers for the glory days of vinyl and his favourite 1980s power ballad, Missing You by John Waite.
The actor’s ashen face gradually registers emotion as R’s feelings for Julie jump-start his cold heart, causing blood to pulse through previously lifeless veins.
Screen chemistry with Palmer is believable, and the central romance is nuzzled by warm and colourful turns from Tipton, Corddry and Malkovich in slightly underwritten supporting roles.
Levine casts a nostalgic, rosy glow over the post-apocalyptic gloom, earning a 12A certificate despite occasional explosions of flesh-ripping violence.
His screenplay elicits big laughs, such as when R ironically recalls life before infection and muses, “It must have been so much better before, when people could communicate and express their feelings” as the screen fills with images of airport passengers welded to mobile devices, tablets and handheld video game consoles.
The message is clear: the zombification of modern society started a long time ago.
Thanks to Levine’s charming film, there is still a glimmer of hope for lovers and dreamers to escape the drudge.
The art of romance is undead.
:: SWEARING :: NO SEX :: VIOLENCE :: RATING: 7/10
Released: February 8 (UK & Ireland), 108 mins