• Reel Reviews
Warm Bodies (dir. Jonathan Levine, 2013)

Zombies, Oh My!

written by: on February 6, 2013

R is the kind of zombie that kids these days can easily relate to: a skinny-jeaned teenager going through an existential crisis.

As played by Nicholas Hoult (Tony from the UK series Skins and Beast from X-Men: First Class), R elicits sympathy by feeling out of place. He feels more conflicted about eating brains than the rest of his kind, he can’t remember his name other than the first initial and he’s in love with a girl that’s completely out of his league (i.e. a human of far-too desirable flesh and blood). Also, an iPod-ready soundtrack of modern indie artists and old-school greats allows R’s supernatural story to feel right at home in the world of the living.

Nicholas-Hoult-and-Teresa-PalmerWarm Bodies plays like a John Hughes movie for zombie fans, and young director Jonathan Levine (The Wackness, 50/50) fills almost every scene with catchy generational tunes. The romance between R and human Julie (Teresa Palmer) borders on Twilight territory, but the rest of the film is snarky and fresh enough to keep the teen-love schmaltz factor in check.

To amp up the surprisingly fun shenanigans of a post-apocalyptic meltdown, a near-perfect playlist ensues with “Rock You like a Hurricane” by Scorpions, “Midnight City” by M83 and the Roy Orbison classic “Oh Pretty Woman.” Additional character moments are shaped by the winking use of John Waite’s “Missing You” and “Patience” by Guns N Roses.

For the more brooding scenes, “Hinnom, TX” by Bon Iver, “Hungry Heart” by Bruce Springsteen, “Runaway” by The National and “Shelter from the Storm” by Bob Dylan hit all the right emotional beats. The cheeky cultural references are also abound, as R introduces Julie to his vinyl collection and grunts: “Better…sound.”

Nicholas-Hoult-and-Rob-CorddryAn official soundtrack for Warm Bodies has yet to be released, which is a shame considering the diverse breadth of music the film contains. With brief snippets of tracks that range from Feist to Jimmy Cliff to the Mynabirds, one wishes for a full album’s worth of songs to complement the movie and also provide extended listening pleasure long after the credits have rolled.

While February is usually a cinematic dumping ground in terms of quality box office fare, Warm Bodies is an unexpected gem. Whip-smart, action-packed and brimming with great music, this hip romantic-comedy version of a classic zombie flick absolutely merits the price of admission.

Still on the fence about seeing Warm Bodies in theaters? Watch the first four minutes here (with one wistful sequence appropriately scored by Jimmy Cliff’s “Sitting in Limbo”):