Warm Bodies (***)

warm_bodies_ver9_xlgYou’d be hard pressed to find a person who was more unsure of Warm Bodies than me when the trailer dropped. In this age of reboots and re-imaginings and remixes, this just seemed like another in the assembly line of ideas. Luckily the writers took care to develop a dynamite script that earns every laugh and dramatic beat, found the perfect director in Jonathan Levine, and captured a fine cast to make it all come to life. A lighthearted romp through the undead genre, Warm Bodies is the first real bright spot in this year’s opening slate of films.

Like most zombie movies, this film starts off with the world decimated from an unknown catastrophe. We meet R (Nicholas Hoult), a zombie who collects random objects, communicates in grunts with fellow zombie M (Rob Corddry), and spends his days rambling about the airport. His outlook changes when he eats the brains of Julie’s ex-boyfriend, which instead of getting him high like other do, imbues him with feelings for the girl. He saves Julie (Teresa Palmer) from a horde of zombies, taking her back to his airplane lair to keep her safe. The two begin developing a relationship, causing R and the fellow zombies to start to come back to life. But all is not well as R and the remaining humans face a big threat from a  horde of skeletal zombies that kill and eat anything with a heartbeat.

That might sound like the most foolish plot synopsis ever, but it’s really a testament to how strong the script is that it doesn’t come off as insincere. They play the situations for laughs sure, but zombie puns can wear thin if you don’t have a strong story behind them. Jonathan Levine does an excellent job directing this film, setting a tone or the production that allowed the actors room to play with conventions while maintaining a distinct visual style.

Nicholas Hoult is sensational as R. It can’t be easy to be an actor to have to be showy and restrained all while under zombie makeup, but Hoult manages to do just that. He’s fully committed to this part, and given the film rests almost entirely on his shoulders, that’s great for us. He gets all of the films best laughs and I’d have paid to see another hour of zombie acting from him. Teresa Palmer is serviceable as the love interest, but all I could think about while how she was like a blond Kristen Stewart. That’s no shade coming from me considering I like Kristen Stewart, but it’s just that Palmer didn’t really have much to do in this film that was radically different from other rom-coms. Rob Corddry and Analeigh Tipton turn in some fun supporting turns, and threaten to steal scenes away from their bigger costars.