As anyone with access to the media can attest, zombies are hot. The Walking Dead is one of the hottest cable TV shows despite pretty much sucking most of the time. (Admit it: Andrea was the worst.) Zombieland is enjoying a possible second life as an Amazon show. But while zombies are hot as entertainment, no one has thought these rotting biters are sexy-hot, but that's not stopping the sweet-but-slight Warm Bodies from trying to change that up.
Nicholas Hoult, Beast from X-Men: First Class, is R (missed opportunity to make him a pirate!) for that's all he can remember of his name. He wanders around the airport with the other zombies after some plague has killed 99% of the world's population with an amusing, ironic inner monologue for our enjoyment. For some unexplained reason, he has set up house in an airplane and filled it with knick-knacks and a magical turntable that doesn't require electricity to play records.
One day, he and a zombie pack happen upon a group of humans who are raiding a medical facility for supplies and in the mayhem, he kills and eats the brain of Perry, the kinda sorta now-ex(pired)-boyfriend of Julie (Teresa Palmer). Since eating brains allows zombies to absorb the victim's memories and feelings, he falls for her (she's cute, but come on) and abducts her back to his swinging airplane pad. Despite grunting a few syllables to reassure her that he's not a threat, she attempts to escape and is almost killed, but R saves her and over time, she starts to fall for this cute dead guy even after he confesses that he killed her boyfriend. (Try that sometime if your girlfriend gets angry at you, guys; say, "At least I didn't eat your boyfriend's brain!")
As R and Julie fall in love - you did get the joke, right? If not, there's a balcony scene to really nudge you in the ribs - he starts to feel things again and is able to communicate more. Not only that, but other zombies who see them together start to feel things as well. Can love change the world or will her father (John Malkovich actually not being super crazy) who runs the city and is paranoid about its defense and the "boneys" - zombies who've given up and become mindless, desiccated and really-poorly CG-animated eating machines mess things up for our crazy life-challenged lovers?
What works best is Hoult's performance because he's got the narrowest set of behavioral options, but nails it. There is some good humor in the voiceover monologue, but they don't keep it up; they should've pitched more on the comedy side to make up for the thinness elsewhere. What didn't work is the climax when one faction suddenly seems to forget their role is to kill the other side. In the world of this story, no way would anyone suddenly say that a reversal makes total sense.
My girlfriend read the book and said it stuck pretty close to the source with some OK alterations. My friend has had a hate on for this movie since he caught wind of the concept, sneering at the idea of "sexy zombies" and I don't think anything above will sway him though it's not exactly what he thinks. I'm in the middle because it just felt too small and underwritten and cheaply done. While I may not sound super warm toward Warm Bodies, it's far from being a stiff of a flick.
Score: 6/10. Catch it on cable.
One thing that dampened my enthusiasm may be that I saw this at the thoroughly mediocre Silver Cinemas at Macomb Mall, a 2nd-run house with uniformly poor projection and sound quality in every room I've seen movies in. They run the bulbs under spec delivering a dim image, the focus is usually soft, and the sound systems are always messed up. This showing had most of the audio coming from the left side of the screen and thus whispered zombie grunts were frequently inaudible. A proper presentation won't fix the script's problems, but it won't hurt either.
I had a similar experience when I first saw The Incredibles at a now-defunct independent first-run joint. Muffled audio made for a lackluster experience. Jump ahead to when I got the DVD and watched it on a plain old standard television and could finally hear better; totally better experience.