Warm Bodies

February 1, 2013 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer, John Malkovich
Directed by: Jonathan Levine (“50/50”)
Written by: Jonathan Levine (“50/50”)

Zombie movie purists beware. “Warm Bodies” will make your head explode.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Unique twists to the sometime tired genre are always welcomed. There are only so many underlying political issues George A. Romero can cover before things start to feel repetitious. So, when original zombie ideas like “Warm Bodies” rear their ugly heads, you can’t help but take a bite.

In the last decade, we’ve seen a masterpiece like “Shaun of the Dead” and solid comedies like “Zombieland” and “Fido.” These kinds of movies can be done and done very well. Unfortunately, “Warm Bodies” doesn’t rise past its quirky synopsis. It’s a zombie romantic comedy (zom rom com) at a loss for believable plot devices and consistent laughs.

The film follows a zombie named R (Nicholas Hoult), a somewhat self-aware young zombie male who isn’t really feeling his new lifestyle now that the world has ended by way of zombie apocalypse. His emo-esque internal monologue conveys his desire to connect with people again and express himself. A zombie, however, isn’t much of a conversationalist.

Things begin to change for R when he meets Julie (Teresa Palmer), a survivor who is ambushed by the undead during a mission to find medicine for the other humans living in a safe concrete compound. During the attack, R saves Julie and somehow persuades her through his moaning and grunting that she would be better off escaping with him instead of doing what any sane person would do and run away.

These are the kind of lazy plot holes that plague “Warm Bodies.” Although they allow the narrative to move forward, some of the script choices simply don’t make any sense. Why doesn’t Julie drive away in the car available to her at any point of the movie? Why can some zombies smell human flesh and others can’t? Why do some zombies run like the dickens and others move in slow-mo? “Warm Bodies” is bold in making up its own rules, but it should be labeled a cheater when it changes those same rules so the story can proceed.

The most shameful disregard for the screenplay comes with the fact that during R and Julie’s time together, R begins to change back into a human. Sure, that’s probably plausible in zombie world, but why do the other zombies who are unaffected by Julie in any way also begin to transform? Unless director/writer Jonathan Levine (“50/50”) is trying to make a point by saying that love, too, is infectious, it doesn’t add up.

While there are a few chuckle-worthy scenes between R and his best zombie friend M (Rob Corddry), “Warm Bodies” is more smart-alecky than it is smart. The combination of horror, romance and comedy might be less of an acquired taste than it was a few years ago, but this kind of fleshy meal just isn’t very appetizing without more substance. Brains, perhaps?

I Am Number Four

February 18, 2011 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Alex Pettyfer, Timothy Olyphant, Teresa Palmer
Directed by: D.J. Caruso (“Eagle Eye”)
Written by: Alfred Gough (TV’s “Smallville”), Miles Millar (TV’s “Smallville”), Marti Noxon (TV’s “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”)

Give author James Frey some credit. Not many people could battle the media beast that is Oprah Winfrey and live to write another day. If memory doesn’t serve, Frey fibbed about the facts of a memoir a few years ago and received a severe tongue lashing from O after she placed it on her esteemed book club list. Since then, Frey has dusted himself off and now sets his sights on penning the next series young adult blockbusters.

The venture is off to a terribly shaky start with his first effort, “I Am Number Four,” a sci-fi novel turned unimpressive motion picture directed by D.J. Caruso (“Eagle Eye”) in an attempt to fill the void left behind by a commercial success like “The Twilight Saga.” While Frey was quoted as saying he didn’t “want to write books that look like other people’s books” after his literary fracas subsided, the film adaptation of “Four” suggests him a liar again.

Replace the melodramatic vampires and werewolves with some equally angsty extraterrestrials and “Four” is an obvious imitation with faint originality. Set in small town Ohio, newcomer Alex Pettyfer plays John Smith, a teenager who happens to be one of the last nine aliens left from his destroyed planet. Along with a gang of Romulan rejects (they’re actually called Mogadorians) in black trench coats hunting them down in numerical order, John (No. 4) is also caught up in high school politics when he falls for the popular artsy girl and pisses off the quarterback.

It’s no surprise the film’s screenwriters are the same team behind the TV series “Smallville.” John might be a hybrid of a young Superman and a sparkling blood sucker, but it’s a moot point nonetheless. There’s absolutely nothing heroic about a squeaky-clean kid who shoots light from his palms and exhibits as much personality as a cardboard cutout.