As Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet is set for a re-release to coincide with Valentine's Day, in the lead up we have a somewhat unique spin on the celebrated tale of two lovers, desperate to be with one another despite knowing they shouldn't given their different backgrounds – as Jonathan Levine's Warm Bodies sets this perennial story against a zombie apocalypse.
Following on from the destruction of Earth, the US is divided up for contamination purposes, as regular humans and zombies are restricted to certain areas – and we begin in a run-down airport, infested with the living dead, as we focus in on the romanticist zombie R (he can't recall his original name), played by Nicholas Hoult. Living a mundane life, consisting of walking around and grunting in the direction of his closest zombie friend M (Rob Corddry), the youngster craves excitement, and one day when the humans head out on a killing spree, he spots Julie (Teresa Palmer) – and in a situation where he would usually feel hungry and crave her flesh, instead he falls in love. Saving Julie from his fellow species, he looks after her, and the pair then form a relationship, and one that could transform the entire world, as they seek to find a way to allow the living and the dead to live amongst one another, despite Julie's father Grigio's (John Malkovich) best efforts.
In what is effectively an adaptation of William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet (his name is R, hers is Julie – geddit?), Levine has presented a distinctive, and quite quirky spin on the zombie movie, as instead of merely treating them as the antagonists – devoid of any individualism and personality – we are in fact entering their lives and their minds (Hoult narrates this story from R's perspective) and attempting to understand what life is truly like as a corpse. However as a result, we are left with various plot-holes and inconsistencies that don't quite add up or make sense. Then again, this is a film about dead people falling in love with real people, so, you know.
Although certainly innovative in parts, where Warm Bodies suffers, is within its mawkish sentimentality, and twee outlook, which could so easily have been avoided. R may be a corpse, but he still only collects his music in vinyl form, and he likes Bob Dylan too, of course. He's a zombie purist. With shades of Juno or The Perks of Being a Wallflower in this respect and the annoying inclination to show off good taste in music, the title loses some of its unique creativity and instead follows a rather hackneyed path.
Nonetheless, Warm Bodies is harmless, good fun and on occasion, pretty funny too. So if you ever do come face to face with a zombie, rather than aim a bullet at its head, why not take it out on a date. You never know where it may lead.