February 7, 2013

'Warm Bodies' fun, weirdly sweet


---- — For years, vampires have been the romantic figures of the undead world, enchanting women despite their deadly nature. They possess a dark, mysterious, smoldering charm ... and they’re generally well-groomed, despite the total lack of mirrors in their homes.

Now zombies want a piece of the romantic action — a tough task for any mindless, rotting corpse.

“Warm Bodies” is a zombie love story, a thinly veiled “Romeo and Juliet” for a post zombie-apocalypse world, based on a popular young-adult novel written by Isaac Marion.

It’s a fun, self-mocking and weirdly sweet film, with only a modicum of gore. It might not be for the hardcore zombie fan, but it’s not quite a zombie version of “Twilight” either.

Nicholas Hoult, who played the boy in “About a Boy” and more recently was the Beast in “X-Men: First Class,” stars as a lovelorn young zombie called R — he’s pretty sure that’s what his name begins with, but he can’t remember the rest.

It’s generally difficult to tell a zombie story from the zombie point of view, mainly because zombies eat brains, they don’t use them.

R, however, still has a dash of memory and feeling. He spends his days ambling and groaning aimlessly around an airport, because, well, it’s his zombie nature. He’s bored and longs for something more, but he’s incapable of it.

Something funny happens, though, when he and a pack of fellow corpses decide to dine on a party of human foragers from the nearby fortified city of survivors. R locks eyes on pretty young victim Julie (Teresa Palmer) and feels something.

He rescues the puzzled and terrified girl, manages a word or two and begins to ask the age-old question: can love conquer the zombie virus?

Hoult is excellent as R. He shows a nice gift for physical comedy, and keeps up an amusing narration while he slowly becomes more human.

Palmer (“I Am Number Four”) is fine as his open-minded love interest, with John Malkovich glowering like only he can do as her dad, the surly leader of the remaining humans.

Notable in the supporting cast is Rob Corddry, who draws several legitimate laughs as R’s zombie best friend. Analeigh Tipton (“Crazy Stupid Love”) is also very good as Julie’s understanding pal.

“Warm Bodies” has some scenes of action and violence — there’s a second level of zombie, fleshless “bonies” who just can’t be reasoned with — but it’s better as a comedy, when it explores R’s budding humanity.

Maybe the zom-rom will become a whole new genre. Sorry “Twilight.”

Rental recommendation: Check out Hoult as an eccentric 12-year-old who teaches Hugh Grant how to grow up in “About a Boy.” Grade: B+.

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Warm Bodies

Grade: B

Starring: Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer, John Malkovich

Rated: PG-13 (for zombie violence and some language)

Running time: 97 minutes