Verdict: Three out of five stars. Nicholas Hoult carries the movie with a moving and often hilarious performance in this sweet, subversive zombie tale. Hoult also shares a tender chemistry with Teresa Palmer, while John Malkovich brings gravitas to proceedings. A pity then, about the sizable plot holes and the in-your-face metaphors. Still, more than worth the entrance fee.

Warm Bodies, Nicholas Hoult

He was beginning to wonder if his hoodie needed a wash. ©Summit Entertainment

Here’s my Warm Bodies review: all you need is love. Right, good night, folks!

In all seriousness, that is the hackneyed, yet surprisingly sweet, message of the movie, which is based on the novel by Isaac Marion. It obeys all the rules of the zombie genre – the origins of the zombie apocalypse are unknown, infection is spread by bites, zombies want to eat your flesh – save in one key, wonderfully subversive aspect: there is a cure for the zombie plague. And that cure, apparently, is feelings. If only someone had told the denizens of The Walking Dead that they could love the zombies into submission.

Warm Bodies must be the first zombie movie to actually tell the story from the point of view of a zombie. Meet R (Nicholas Hoult), just your average moving corpse pondering the meaning of existence. He shuffles around all day in an airport filled with zombies, longing for some kind of connection. R can barely communicate, except through a hilariously deadpan voiceover . “What am I doing with my life?” he asks, which would be a valid question if he were actually alive.  As if to prove he’s an emo zombie, he spends his days in an abandoned airplane, listening to 1980’s vinyls.

Warm Bodies, Nicholas Hoult

Grunt. Groan. Moan. ©Summit Entertainment

Then one day, while stumbling around the city with his fellow undead – “Travelling in packs makes sense, especially when everyone and their grandmother is trying to shoot you in the head” – he meets human survivor Julie (Teresa Palmer): and his heart literally begins to beat again. And you know something dramatic’s happening, because it’s in slow motion in the middle of a gunfight, and John Waite’s “Missing You” is playing. I was almost about to sing along, but the amount of blood being spilt in that scene made me feel it was kind of inappropriate. Though I was hoping “Total Eclipse Of The Heart” would come on.
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It’s all sort of like the zombie version of Twilight, especially considering that Palmer is essentially e a hotter, more expressive Kristen Stewart, except with 10 times more depth (Then again, what doesn’t have more depth than Twilight?) The awkward, hesitant motions of first love also play out in the most horrifically amusing circumstances possible. After eating her boyfriend Perry’s (Dave Franco) brain, R brings her back to his awesome airplane pad where he effectively  keeps her prisoner while protecting her from the other undead. And because he’s a hipster zombie, he explains his feelings by playing Guns N’ Roses’ “Patience” and staring into the distance with his dead eyes.
Warm Bodies

His seduction technique needed work. ©Summit Entertainment

But while the scenes between R and Julie are some of the best ones in Warm Bodies, it’s also where the gaps in the plot come in. Why doesn’t Julie just run away when she has the chance to do so? And which person in their right mind would flirt with a zombie who basically helped kill and eat her friends? At more than a few points, the star-crossed lovers narrative drags and risks spilling over into the realm of cheesiness. Fortunately, Hoult, who is British, livens things up with some choice lines like “This date is not going well. I wanna die all over again”, which he delivers in a flawless American accent.
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The zombie plague as a metaphor for apathy and indifference is a mildly interesting one, even if it is on the nose. The counterpoint to the zombies is the Bonies, or zombies who are too far gone because they have given up all hope, and don’t like this whole idea of zombies being cured. At one point, R even says: “It’s easier not to feel.” But eating Perry’s brain gives R access to his memories, which play out in sepia-tinted, Instagram-like visuals, and makes him long for more. Considering that Hoult played Beast in X-Men Origins: First Class, it almost feels like his mutant power.

Warm Bodies, Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer

“And there’s you eating Perry’s brain.” ©Summit Entertainment

Besides the central pair, the supporting players do a fine job. John Malkovich does his usual intense thing as Colonel Grigio, Julie’s cold, driven father. Rob Corddry, formerly of The Daily Show, gets more than a few laughs as R’s best friend Marcus. Dave Franco has probably the least to do as the unfortunate ex, whose main job is to die and appear in flashbacks. But though there is little doubt as to how this rom-zom-com will end, I do like Warm Bodies a lot. Expect more big things to come from Hoult.
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Warm Bodies opens in Singapore today. Tell me what you think of it!
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