Warm Bodies

My grandson, Conner, and I decided to tell my foreign exchange student, Thamer, to see this film. In helping him adjust to American girls from his Saudi experience, impersonating a loving zombie may not be a bad thing.

Rating: Can be seen on any screen, as it is a goofy reminder about why love is a many splendored thing.

Warm BodiesWhile I will go out on a limb and suggest that killing a would-be lover’s boyfriend and eating his brains probably should be avoided, Warm Bodies rises above its perceived weaknesses. Much like Zombieland (2009), it is a diabolically clever film that has a way of crawling into the caustic regions of your hardened heart.

Though it centers on a romantic love story between a conflicted zombie and his reluctant paramour, Warm Bodies also is an effective tale about confronting our confusing human existence. It has a subtle strength that you would not have anticipated.

More to the point, this is not some corny saga ala the Twilight movies. Those films brought next to nothing to the table, amounting to little more than the triumvirate of Kristin Stewart, Robert Pattison and Taylor Lautner repeatedly mooning over each other. You experienced little more than multiple sighs as the films evolved into sophomoric, artificial confrontations at their respective conclusions.

Warm Bodies rejects all of those lightweight plot themes, here dwelling on a tortured young man and a threatened woman who you collectively embrace while they try to swim against society’s currents. What you see are adversaries who are reluctantly forced to come to grips with sworn enemies long before they fall in love.

Though I was watching a story about a human and a zombie, I couldn’t help but contemplate the consequences of Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s daughter secretly falling in love with Benjamin Netanyahu’s son. One would anticipate that both fathers would go stark-raving nuts, much like the human father played by John Malkovich did in this film, but what would they do if their children refused to listen?

Though largely unknown, Nicholas Hoult is genuinely beguiling as our young zombie, called R, who begins to realize that he is changing for the good in a fashion that he can’t understand. And if you wonder how a zombie could be talented, take a look at Mr. Hoult opposite Colin Firth in A Single Man (2009) and playing Hank McCoy/Beast in X-Men: First Class (2011).

Teresa Palmer plays Julie, the young woman rescued from death by R. In the process she learns far more about would-be enemies than she could have ever imagined. Sure her boyfriend is killed in action, but a girl’s got to live, doesn’t she?

I should also note that the script by Director Jonathan Levine is far more cerebral than it is brutal or violent. There are lengthy, frequently funny moments when R and Julie are forced to share each other’s company, and their interplay is both amusing and moving. Sure, there are some vicious moments as the two sides collide with each other, but they are infrequent and more often left to the imagination.

What makes Warm Bodies work is its courage to talk about life and what really matters along the way. As the zombies slowly start to recapture human form, they find themselves watching sunsets, dreaming and recovering some memory of their past. They remind us of what it means to be human, and further to hold on to those tiny little things that give meaning to life.

Two roles that must be acknowledged are by John Malkovich and Rob Corddry. As noted above, Mr. Malkovich plays Julie’s father, Grigio, the human military leader who approaches zombies the same way Custer approached Sioux Indians at the Little Bighorn. Mr. Corddry is hysterically funny as R’s zombie friend M, the first zombie in history to develop a stinging sense of humor.

While Mr. Malkovich’s career speaks for itself, Mr. Corddry continues to build on an hysterical persona first displayed on “The Daily Show with John Stewart” (1996). He was spot on as Ari Fleischer, President Bush’s press secretary in W (2008); the out of control Lou in Hot Tub Time Machine (2010); the confused Gary in the tragically overlooked Cedar Rapids (2011), as well as the sincere guy facing the end of life in Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (2012). I don’t know why all men don’t love him, as he is living proof of the simple fact that you don’t need hair to be caustically funny.

Additionally, Warm Bodies has a knockout soundtrack that both blends in and enhances the script. If you doubt me, how could any movie go wrong while listening to Bruce Springsteen’s “Hungry Heart”; Bob Dylan’s “Shelter From the Storm”; Roy Orbison’s “Oh, Pretty Woman” and Guns N’ Roses “Patience”?

Finally, I was fortunate to have my 14-year old grandson, Conner, join me for the film. Though he thought it started a bit slowly, he fully embraced it by the end. This is a kid that I have been taking to movies for over 10 years, and I have learned to trust the lad’s instincts.

Finally, there were several scenes in the movie where Julie discovered R’s instinct for collecting old albums and playing them on a beat-up stereo. She had no idea how to even work the thing, and she had to rely on a laconic zombie’s knowledge. Unfortunately, I’ve got a lot in common with that zombie.