Warm Bodies (Jonathan Levine, 2013)

To the misinformed, Warm Bodies may not appear to be anything but a cheap, Twilight-inspired tween romance knockoff, swapping out the hemoglobin-inclined for the insatiably flesh-hungry. After all, newly undead R (Nicholas Hoult) falls for the very human Julie (Teresa Palmer), if only after consuming her boyfriend’s brains – an activity that bestows R and his comrades with a peculiar high comparable to what they can only assume is “dreaming;” their victims’ memories quickly flooding their subconscious. Fortunately for us, director Jonathan Levine’s adapted Isaac Marion’s novel with enough artistic gusto to persuade us otherwise, ironically lacing his take on the source material with the one thing this previously absurd subgenre’s lacked: a heart.

Romantic elements aside, Levine’s screenplay successfully illustrates the thematic intricacies of its source material, forgoing the finite, mostly aimless “classic” zombie lifestyle with one of continuing existential musings and an eventual desire for equality. R’s self-aware and frequently humorous narration quite literally breathes new life into his kind, allowing us viewers to both empathize and even sympathize with him as his attitude, experiences and time with Julie pave the way toward a hopeful if mysterious transformation.

Singular creative touches also do wonders for the narrative itself, with evocative musical numbers appropriately permeating the simple-minded, albeit engrossing tale of new life and love among the occasional brain consumption-induced memory trip. Paired with R’s ever-evolving bond with and devotion to Julie, the flashbacks in question palpably transform Warm Bodies into an altogether emotionally and even visually rich experience, our desire to care for these characters intensifying over time to the point where we subconsciously root for a positive outcome to all of the scenarios presented.

As a whole, Warm Bodies is most certainly a cutesy feel-good tread through familiar territory, its ability to surpass convention heavily overshadowing its purposeful lack of complexity. It’s obviously not an awards contender, nor is it meant to be taken at anything above face value, however there’s a lot to be said about Levine’s ability to transcend abysmal genre conventions with agreeable creative choices, emotionally satisfying conclusion and all. Coupled with above average performances from Hoult, Palmer and the gang, a requisite amount of tangible cinematic peril and wit all combine to form one well-rounded piece of entertainment that serves to admirably top the recent onslaught of typically awful January/February releases.

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