'Warm Bodies': Alive & Well

Forbidden Love Explored In New Rom-Com

By Chris Azzopardi

I bet you don't think of yourself as a zombie. You feel, you think, you hopefully don't eat brains. Suggesting, however, that you're not all that different than the walking dead is "Warm Bodies," an outsiders coming-of-age rom-com with a zombie protagonist and his human crush who represent forbidden love and the age-old adage that "love conquers all"... and makes you feel less dead.

Like a modern-day "Romeo & Juliet," Julie meets R (a name she gives him because he can't remember his own) during a zombie invasion in post-apocalyptic America where it's dead things vs. humans - and Dave Franco. Franco plays Perry, Julie's hot boyfriend who meets a really unfortunate demise early on during a zombie ambush-gone-bad. Julie's rebound: the flesh-eater who killed him. R's endearing reasoning makes it hard to hate the fact that he just devoured one of the sexiest men alive. You see, he doesn't just eat brains like fast food. They're all he has to feel human.

Until Julie, who's completely weirded out by R's instant infatuation with her (of course she is) but also intrigued enough by the dude's affability and impressive taste in late-'80s rock music (of course she is). And who wouldn't like a partner who talks back in grunts and single-word sentences? It's a match made in zombie hell.

Julie's dad (John Malkovich), the shot-caller of the zombie-killing squad, is the Lord Capulet of the story; he's the dad you can't bring your partner home to because he wouldn't accept it. So Julie does what any other zombie-loving girl would do to hide the fact that her could-be boyfriend is undead: layers on the foundation and blush. Naturally, her friend Nora (Analeigh Tipton) - who decides to roll with this whole my-friend-loves-a-zombie absurdity - is amused by the makeover and throws on "Pretty Woman."

It would be simple to say that "Warm Bodies" is a lot like "Twilight," and in some very basic ways they're not all that different. There's a dead man and a not-dead woman who have a thing for each other. But even though Teresa Palmer, as Julie, reminded me of a more adequate Kristen Stewart - and "Warm Bodies," too, has a really terrific pop-rock soundtrack (John Waite's "Missing You" is used to great comedic effect in the beginning) - "Warm Bodies" isn't some tween soap-opera saga without a pulse.

Based on Isaac Marion's debut novel, director Jonathan Levine's follow up to the also-great cancer comedy "50/50" is frequently very funny with sharp self-referential wit, neat genre embellishments (zombies access memories via brains), and actors so competent they make Taylor Lautner look like he's the zombie. British actor Nicholas Hoult, a gay fave for the nurturing sweetness he showed Colin Firth's anguished widower in "A Single Man," is far from just a lifeless corpse; he really gets to the heart of the human within R.

With the all-but-dead "Warm Bodies," Levine takes a tale as told as time - star-crossed lovers against the world - and breathes new life into it.

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