Warm Bodies is a “paranormal romantic zombie comedy film.” I know what you’re thinking, “oh great, another one of those.” But jokes aside, there is very little here that is original or clever despite the genre mashup of the premise. The story concerns a zombie teen that goes by ‘R’ because that’s all he can remember of his name. R is on a constant search for human flesh from the still living humans. He’s a particular connoisseur of brains as they allow him to experience the memories of the former owner. You see even though he is a zombie, he yearns to be human again. One day he meets non-zombie Julie and a bunch of her friends, including her boyfriend, Perry. R kills Perry, eats his brain and becomes immediately attracted to her. Instead of killing her, R rescues her from the attack. Can you guess what happens next?
The zombie twist notwithstanding, this basically plays out like the umpteenth variation of Beauty and the Beast. Except Belle didn’t take up with the Beast right after he killed her boyfriend. That troubling bit of logic is part of the reason why this romance doesn’t really work. Julie and R never function as more than a writer’s construct of what young impetuous kids in love are supposed to do in these films. We get lots of dewy-eyed stares from actor Nicholas Hoult. Actress Teresa Palmer conveys sympathetic anxiety. There’s a ton of musical selections that intrude on the action at inappropriate times on the soundtrack too. The movie could easily be chopped up into sections and run as videos on MTV. I mean, that is if MTV still played videos. One “wacky” music montage actually has the two adolescents trying on different pairs of sunglasses. I wish that was meant to be satirical, but sadly it’s done with utter sincerity.
Warm Bodies is pleasant but not perceptive. William Shakespeare did this way back in the 16th century when he wrote Romeo & Juliet (another influence). Even The Bard of Avon was borrowing from earlier traditions. “Love Conquers All” is the timeworn concept. Simply adding zombies to the mix is just a lazy technique to make this generic material seem fresh. “We’ve kind of done vampires to death so let’s concentrate on zombies now,” is the impression I get from the way the story pitch went. Additionally the illogical plot contrivances further irritate matters. If someone killed my sweetheart, I’d run in the other direction, not date them. Warm Bodies is based on the debut novel of author Isaac Marion. Not having read the source text, I’m not sure how much of the script contains the root of Marion’s ideas. Unfortunately the screenplay adaptation feels more like the result of a focus group than the outcome of genuine inspiration.