“Warm Bodies” puts a new “Twilight” take on the genre. It works in a warped “Walking Dead-Romeo and Juliet” way. In fact, the zombie teenage boy is named, “R” (Nicholas Hoult), while his still-living Juliet is “Julie” (Teresa Palmer). R eats her former boyfriend’s brains, but decides to keep her alive in his abandoned airplane lair.
It’s a prolonged date, made longer by his inability to talk. He grunts out a syllable now and then. But she gets the message: R is in love. His sweetness overcomes his rotting flesh and his appetite, so she falls for him. They even do a balcony scene, which would have Shakespeare spinning.
Bigger trouble than the other zombies and hungry skeletons called “Boneys,” is Julie’s father, Grigio (John Malkovich), the leader of the few surviving humans. To Dad, dating a zombie is worse than bringing home Keith Richards, circa 1970. Dad is prejudiced. Zombies ate his wife, and he doesn’t want R to munch on his daughter. It’s understandable. Still, Julie is convinced that her zombie boyfriend is getting better. Like the Grinch, his heart is growing with their love. R’s fellow Undead seem to be doing the same. Teen love is ending the Zombie Apocalypse.
Under writer/director Jonathan Levine, “Warm Bodies” could have been stillborn because, like R and his buddies, it at first seems barely breathing. Yet, it is saved by Hoult’s droll miming and voiceover narration (“Why can’t I connect with people? Oh, right: I’m dead”). Between the feeding frenzies and exploding blood squibs, “Warm Bodies” squeezes out some clever comedy and mild suspense during the poignantly awkward romance.
The bottom line: teens in the audience were enthralled. Throughout the film’s 1 hour and 37 minutes, only one cell phone lit up.