'Warm Bodies' breathes life into a worn-out genre

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Entertainment,Movies,Brian Hughes

"Warm Bodies" is a conventional story wrapped in an unconventional package. It's "Romeo and Juliet" in a post-apocalyptic world -- and the leading man is a cannibalistic corpse. The latest twist to the zombie canon is also probably its sweetest. "Bodies" is light on the horror and heavy on romantic comedy, but thanks to writer and director Jonathan Levine's deft touch, this crowd pleaser feels like more than just an extended wink at the audience. It seems primed to gain traction for those looking for Valentine's Day fare -- but worry not, fellas, this ain't "Twilight."

In a brilliant opening, R (Nicholas Hoult) takes us through a day in the life of the living dead. Heavy on voice-over, R's home is an abandoned airport, where he's joined by a slacker army of zombies, slumped over, numb and disinterested in much of anything. They travel in packs; as R explains, it makes sense when all the humans are trying to shoot you in the head.

His endless loop of monotony, however, is interrupted when he stumbles upon Julie (Teresa Palmer) and a group of teenagers looking for medical supplies outside the safety of their gated fortress. R devours Julie's boyfriend (the mumble-heavy Dave Franco), but when he sees Julie firing off rounds, emphasized by a playful use of slow motion, his carnivorous appetite is replaced by a protective streak. Their meeting sets in motion our Shakespearean, star-crossed tale, in which the pair tries to convince skeptical humans that zombies can evolve into functioning members of society.

On screen
'Warm Bodies'
3 out of 4 stars
Stars: Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer, Rob Corddry, John Malkovich and Dave Franco
Director: Jonathan Levine
Rated: PG-13
Running time: 97 minutes

What ensues could be dismissed as a bit too on the nose. But it's just so much fun that you'll forgive what amounts to a series of impressive scenes rather than a wide-ranging narrative. The supporting turns in "Bodies" make all the difference. Playing R's best friend, "Daily Show" veteran Rob Corddry is a walking set of one-liners, none of which will be spoiled here. And John Malkovich is well, Malkovichian, in the role of Julie's overprotective, neurotic father. Though too much of a thematic crutch, the soundtrack is a worthy companion to the story, filled with Springsteen and Dylan, and recent, brooding gems from Bon Iver and the National.

But again, Levine deserves all the credit for elevating what could have devolved into young-adult-novel territory. "Bodies" lacks the emotional heft of his cancer dramedy -- and best work -- "50/50," but it's a welcome, if less gory, addition to the subgenre occupied by the likes of "Zombieland" and "Shaun of the Dead."

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