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WARM BODIES

SYNOPSIS:
It's a locked-down city in survival mode, led by a determined Grigio (John Malkovich) after a mysterious virus has turned most of the citizens into zombies - or worse, vicious skeletons - all of them hungry for human flesh. After R (Nicholas Hoult) - a highly unusual zombie - saves Grigio's daughter Julie (Teresa Palmer) from one such attack, the two form a relationship that sets in motion a sequence of events that might transform the entire lifeless world.

Review by Louise Keller:
Trying valiantly to replicate the charm of the enigmatic Twilight romance in a zombie reality, this adaptation stiffens like a corpse thanks to its silly script, and sadly neither Teresa Palmer or Nicholas Hoult are any match for Bela and Edward. What John Malkovich is doing in the film is anyone's guess. The written word from Isaac Marion's novel might capture the incongruous sweetness of emotion intended to transpire between the zombie who becomes smitten by a human and becomes even more involved when he gobbles up the brains of the girl's boyfriend, thus acquiring his memories. But the film version has insurmountable difficulties to overcome.

The film establishes its reality in the first frames when we meet the pale, hunched zombie protagonist (Nicholas Hoult with tousled hair, mulberry mouth and comatose expression), who shuffles and grunts around an airport with his zombie cohorts. He vaguely remembers his name begins with the letter R. Voice over conveys his thoughts as he asks himself why he cannot connect, before he remembers he is dead. The drollness of the situation does not escape us as the 'conversation' with his 'best friend' (Rob Corddry) comprises of monotonic grunts.

The venturing of Julie (Theresa Palmer), boyfriend Perry (Dave Franco) and others into zombie territory to collect medicine is poorly set up and the scene in which R and Julie lock eyes (after which the brain gobbling occurs) is a bit ho-hum. Hoult does his best as the love-lorn zombie, trapped in a world of jerky movements and grunts, but Palmer, who does much talking for both of them, is charmless. Unable to communicate through words, when R takes Julie to his pad in the empty plane, he serenades her with music from his vinyl collection that comprises Guns and Roses, Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan. The dialogue is cringe-worthy: 'Do you have to eat people?' Julie asks. 'But you didn't eat me.' Unsurprisingly, R's make-over to resemble a human (to Roy Orbison's Pretty Woman) falls dead flat.

I'm not sure where the red BMW Z4 roadster comes from, but before we know it, Julie has entered the zombie world and pretends to be one of them (in one embarrassingly awkward scene). The point of the story (between gunshots at the zombies and skeletons; how ludicrous) is that love is the trigger that bridges life to the dead. Trouble is, the zombies' grunts turn to words and sentences in the flash of an eye and it's all pretty dull and tedious. Warm bodies they may become, but there are no warm hearts anywhere in sight and a few droll ideas aside, this supposed 'hilarious, heartwarming zombie action rom-com' left me cold.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
There have been many incarnations of the Romeo & Juliet story, star crossed lovers who defy the rules and pay the price. In some versions, like this one, they don't pay the price but are rewarded. But then Warm Bodies is not really the Romeo & Juliet story, even though the girl is called Julie (Teresa Palmer); not being game to call the boy Rome, he's just R (Nicholas Hoult). And there is even a balcony scene. But the film simply plants this seed in the rather infertile ground of zombie comedy-land, which could be great if it were really a comedy. The odd guffaws, though, come from the wrong side of funny, where we are laughing at the film not with it.

The problems that infect the film start with the premise, rip through the screenplay and are held high by the direction. Internal logic is non-existent, so in this post apocalyptic world, R's home - an abandoned jetliner at the airport - has enough electricity to run a turntable. The old BMW Z4 is gassed up. The deserted suburb where they seek refuge has not a single power pole or street sign. But most disturbingly, defence against the dead people is guns; the fact that this is common silliness in zombie movies doesn't make it any better. Shooting the dead and the skeletons seems rather redundant. The threat to life is one thing, but threat to re-death is not that powerful for audiences. (It reconfirms the gun-obsession that grips America; they even shoot dead people.)

I realise that rational analysis is the wrong tool here, but it's not funny enough to be surreal comedy nor wacky enough to be a low brow splatter pic. Still wedded to the Romeo & Juliet sensibility, Warm Bodies tries to envelop the zombiegeist in a sweet love story of people who are thrown together against the odds - with the odds being bent and twisted and corroded and off kilter ... yet the zombies are just like zombies in any other film in this genre, lumbering, wounded, all wooden acting, staring and scarred.

Attempts at visualising a sort of memory transference when a zombie eats the brain of a human are just a jumble of images and simply serve to ridicule the technical efforts involved.

Nicholas Hoult is a talented young actor, but even he can't manage what's being asked of him without looking ridiculous. Half hearted zombie that R is, he manages to whisper the odd word to his best friend M (Rob Corddry) - M as in Mercurio of course, just to overegg the analogy - and gradually mumbles a few more when in the presence of Julie. And of course, it's love that turns the zombies back into bleeding human beings again - a sentiment that is far worthier than the film.

The premise hasn't been thought through in the adaptation from book to screen, and the result is as lumbering as the zombies, and no less desaturated.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 2
Mixed: 0

WARM BODIES (M)
(US, 2013)

CAST: Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer, John Malkovich, Dave Franco, Analeigh Tipton, Rob Corddry, Cory Hardrict

PRODUCER: David Hoberman, Todd Lieberman, Bruna Papandrea

DIRECTOR: Jonathan Levine

SCRIPT: Jonathan Levine (novel by Isaac Marion)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Javier Aquirresarobe

EDITOR: Nancy Richardson

MUSIC: Marco Beltrami, Buck Sanders

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Martin Whist

RUNNING TIME: 97 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Icon

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 11, 2013







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