Movie Reviews

'Warm Bodies' (2013) Movie Review

A zombie rom-com with a big soundtrack budget

Nichoulas Hoult and Teresa Palmer in Warm Bodies
Nichoulas Hoult and Teresa Palmer in Warm Bodies
Photo: Summit Entertainment

The zombie apocalypse has left Earth in a decrepit state of existence. Humans have walled themselves in and the undead drag their feet around the outside. One such walking corpse serves as the protagonist of Jonathan Levine's Warm Bodies, a zombie rom-com (a zom-com if you will) from the director of 50/50, which Levine adapted from Isaac Marion's novel of the same name.

'Warm Bodies'
Grade: C+

Warm Bodies"Warm Bodies" is a Summit Entertainment release, directed by and is rated PG-13 for zombie violence and some language. The running time is .

The cast includes , , , , , , and .

For more information on this film including pictures, trailers and a detailed synopsis .

The focus of this story is a zombie by the name of R (Nicholas Hoult). It's R because he can't remember his name, though he believes that's what it started with. He tells us this in voice over (get used to that) while introducing us to what the world has become. He and his zombie cohorts sloth around a vacant airport where R lives in a 747, collects things and listens to records. You know, because they sound better... "More alive," he tells us.

That's sort of what this movie is. It's an emo, cutesy... thing. It's got it's little zombie metaphor, comparing today's smartphone obsessed, head bowed down nature to a world of dead-eyed walking corpses, but that's only skin deep. For the most part it's a love story about a zombie who doesn't want to be a zombie, he wants to feel again and suddenly one girl allows him to do just that.

R's world turns upside down when he comes across Julie (Teresa Palmer). A human from inside the wall, only he doesn't want to eat her, he wants to be with her and he can feel himself changing by simply being around her. They listen to records, dance, drive cars and do whatever else a human and zombie might do in a movie montage until it comes time to decide what the future for this world may hold.

Levine sets all of this to an abundance of music including Guns 'N Roses, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and Roy Orbison and he makes no attempt to hide it in the background, instead pumping up the volume to the point it drowns everything else out. The absolute number of songs used, combined with the dependence on voice over so we know what R is thinking, is simply too much. There isn't enough going on between each scene for this much non-essential material to be included. Where some films can be as subtle as a sledgehammer with their dialogue, Warm Bodies uses music.

In light of this, the film isn't a total miss. It's got some funny moments and Hoult is pretty great as is his zombie "best friend" M played by Rob Corddry who gets the film's best line during its latter third. John Malkovich plays Julie's over-protective, zombie-hating, war-mongering father and pretty much every decision he's going to make in the film is decided from the moment you meet him. Despite the fact we're talking about a zombie love story, you aren't going to be surprised by much this film has to offer.

Warm Bodies is akin to a complete nine year run of a CW primetime soap, boiled down to 97 minutes, stripped of its angsty, faux drama and given a healthy soundtrack budget because even soap opera emotion is harder to create than emotion generated from songs we all recognize. It's not that bad, but I could just as easily do without it.

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  • Kevin Blumeyer

    Weird. Levine always has good music in his movies, but he usually knows how/when to use it. Radiohead and Pearl Jam in 50/50 were absolutely perfect.

    • Brad Brevet

      This film has good music, it's the abundance of it that's annoying... to me at least.

      • Kevin Blumeyer

        Yeah, sorry, that's what I was trying to say. Good choice of songs at the right moments without overdoing it.

        I'm sure those scenes in 50/50 would have been less effective if he cherry picked every iconic 90s rock song and inserted them in every transition in the film.

  • G-Man

    Anyone else ever try to guess Brad's grade just by looking at the short description on Facebook? I've gotten pretty good at it.

  • Aleonardis

    Your point about the abundance is very apt. It did get annoying after the 10th montage. The characters though, are actually fun and interesting. It feels like it got a studio work over though because Levine is very conservative and usually keeps things at bay. It's still a fun watch but I feel like it could have been much better. I'll take Zom-Com over SparklyVamps any day.

  • JN Films

    I'm still gonna go see it, but not take it too seriously.

  • Dale

    The 78% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes led me to see this, when it otherwise wouldn't have interested me at all. I actually found it a very sweet and touching film with some genuine dashes of humor that made me laugh out loud more than once (something I don't often do). And Rob Corddry deserves to head up a film someday, instead of being the classic second banana.

  • MajorFilmFan

    I genuinely enjoyed this movie, even if the use of music did get kind of annoying at times. The characters were unusual, and smart and at times, funny. Unlike 'Twilight', this doesn't make zombies into lovesick saps.

  • Andrew Drewes

    I agree its a very average movie which is dissapointing. Underneath the layers of ironic distancing, there's some clever writing, quite a few contrivances and plot devices, but some interesting ideas nonetheless. Consider the set piece where R. meets Julie. Julie and her fellow young troopers go into the dead zone to find pharmaceutical drugs or "pharma," zombies attack and one of them happens to be R., whom seems to be one of the only zombies with workable roots of humanity. In a slow motion shot as she reloads her rifle, the John Waite song "Missing You" booms on the non-diegetic soundtrack. Immediately pangs of feeling attack R.'s body as his heart recieves a jolt. Clever right? The caveat is that it's all meta furnishings without a home. The film wants to have it's cake and eat it too. R. Is simply an Abercrombie & Fitch model donning white makeup. There's no romantic tension.

    If you strip the film of it's meta artifice: grabby classic rock tunes, LPs, Shakespeare references, you're left with a pretty cornball romance allegory: Love can reignite even a zombie's heart. That's fine, I'm all in for a saccharine romp. Again the problem is, the film undercuts any tension by cramming it with broad strokes of comedy and ironic detachment. There's no stakes. The zombies are never a real threat. There's no genuine spark between R. and Julie, although the film wants us to believe there is, and the "bonies" are total plot devices.

    Why am I judging this admittedly cleverly scripted movie so harsh? It's ambitions are too lofty, a film should be weighed against what it wants to be, not it's relation to other movies. It's a problem when a film takes on more than it can chew, these are all on a conceptual level. As an irritated Julie states late in the film when her friend plays an ironically timed classic rock tune, "it's just not funny," (or something to that effect) I couldn't agree more.

    Sorry for the rant, I'm a first time commenter and Ive been digging the podcasts.

  • topyxyz

    I get Brad's point a lot, but for me the abundance of music wasn't really a big issue but I thought of it as a tool to help liven the mood a bit because it would've been a rather boring film if there wasn't any.

    And that doesn't necessarily mean that there wasn't really much of a story. I actually thought Levine's direction was great and the screenplay fantastic. There wasn't really much words spoken in between dialogues but Hoult and Palmer's delivery sure made it seem better than what it's supposed to.

    Ditto to Andrew, loving the podcasts.