For, June 21, 2013

In the Deseret News a couple of weeks ago I found myself recommending a zombie movie in a DVD column. Yeah, I know. Zombies? Me? Hard to believe. Anyway, with the opening of "World War Z," I thought I'd resurrect the recommendation. This is a surprisingly warm and human zombie movie, which, now that I've read that back, sounds equally as anachronistic.

"Warm Bodies," now on Blu-ray and DVD, is a PG-13-rated zombie comedy. In fact, it's a zombie rom-com. That's right, a romantic comedy wrapped up in everything you expect from the zombie genre, except perhaps an R-rated level of gore. And it's both funny and sweet, thanks to a clever script and the central performance by Nicholas Hoult, whose other big 2013 movie was "Jack the Giant Slayer." This one's much better, and Hoult is one of the primary reasons.

He's the zombie, and he narrates the film in a deadpan manner that adds to the fun. I'm not a fan of voiceover narrations but his one works, lampooning zombie tropes and explaining the situation of his slow-moving, flesh-eating kith and kin.

During a routine rampage, while he and his fellow zombies are attacking humans for feasting purposes, he meets a young woman (Teresa Palmer) and a strange thing happens. Like the Tin Man, he begins to realize that he has a heart, and his cold, dead demeanor begins to warm up. Instead of making a meal of her, he becomes protective. And the result is surprisingly charming and funny.

Despite the softer rating, the film is violent, of course, but not nearly as violent (or profane) as the R-rated "Shaun of the Dead," an obvious point of comparison. But "Warm Bodies" works and Hoult's performance is a big reason why. His subtle underplaying is perfect and much of the comedy results from his reactions to the situations that develop.

John Malkovich co-stars as the girl's overzealous zombie-hunter father and he's good, too.