I loved the first 15 minutes of Warm Bodies. However, the remaining 1 hr and 22 min were an uneven spectacle that often asked its audience to make one unbelievable leap after the next. Confusingly enough, the film is a plot driven undertaking that yet, often asked the audience to forgive its absurd storytelling mechanics and just go with it. Nicholas Hoult is admirable in his take on the undead R but catatonic performances from his supporting cast don't give him much to play off. With Hoult more or less mute aside from inner monologues, the film relies heavily on Teresa Palmer (Julie) to carry a large chunk of the movie but she doesn't have the range to play a character that's semi damsel in distress and yet sometimes a badass. She has the badass down, see her previous roles in I Am Number Four, but when the action stops it's a real struggle to maintain any interest in what happens to her character.
As for the actual plot, I won't go into too much detail but Hoult plays R and Palmer play Julie. That's a clue as to what the underlying theme of the story that I'm sure all you Shakespeare aficionados will figure out pretty quickly. Warm Bodies is based on a book of the same name from Isaac Marion that makes no effort to hide it's Shakespearean allusions while the adaptation's marketing has certainly downplayed this aspect of the story which is actually a pretty significant part.
After the brilliant first 15 minutes where the world is mapped out and the rules are defined, the audience is asked to make a nonsensical leap as to why Hoult's flesh-eating monstrosity has suddenly fallen for Palmer and there's a couple of even more nonsensical leaps springing out from that development that takes you right out of the film and leaves you shaking your head. Essentially, this is the type of film that asks you to enjoy it for what it is, like how Looper asks you to not too focus on its travel mechanics and just accept its rules. The problem with Warm Bodies is that there aren't enough fun or dynamic pieces to distract you from any plot hangups. Rob Corddry (M, another Shakespeare allusion) by far the funniest character in the film, was criminally underused and steals every scene he's in with some brilliant comedic timing. Likewise, John Malkovich (Grigio) needed more screen time as he brought some much needed gravity to the post-apocalyptic world. Dave Franco (Perry) plays the third most important character in the film but his delivery and mannerisms haven't changed since Fright Night.
Overall, Warm Bodies tries to be a quirky entertaining escapade but the film is light on laughs and fails to distract from a story that contains one leap of logic too many. There's some enjoyment here but not much.
Mark Julian Ranks The 2012 CBM Film Slate
Running Time: 1 hr 37 min
Release Date: February 1, 2013 (USA)
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Starring: Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer, Rob Corddry, Dave Franco, John Malkovich, Analeigh Tipton
Directed by: Jonathan Levine
Written by: Jonathan Levine (screenplay),Isaac Marion (novel)