By Mark Saldana
Rating: 2.5 (Out of 4 Stars)
Typical zombie movie plots have their limitations. Honestly, writers and filmmakers can only do so much within the genre. Since George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead debuted in 1968, filmmakers have followed suit with imitators, some better than others. On the other hand, ingenious filmmakers such as Sam Raimi and Edgar Wright have put comedic spins on the genre with the cult-classic Evil Dead series and the superb Shaun of the Dead. While the plots of these films are similar to films that have preceded them, the stories take the basics and run with them in bold and exciting new directions. Author Isaac Marion now has taken the zombie plot and has shaped an adorable and novel idea of a story around it. Marion puts a rom-com spin on the genre and now writer/director Jonathan Levine (50/50) has adapted it for cinema. While the premise is bold and fresh (no pun intended), unfortunately the underwritten and underdeveloped script hold the film back from achieving its potential greatness.
Following an onset of a plague which causes a zombie apocalypse, R (Nicholas Hoult) a zombie, comes upon an uninfected young lady named Julie (Teresa Palmer). He falls for her madly and decides to protect her from other zombies. The more time R spends with Julie, the more human he feels. After realizing that love may be the cure to his affliction, R and Julie decide to help other zombies in hopes of ending the war between them and the living.
Marion’s story ideas are, well, quite novel and dynamic. I honestly have not read the book on which this film is based, so I have no basis on which to critique it or how well Levine adapted it. As for the film, the story does offer the potential for something exceptional; however, Levine’s underdeveloped story never gets it there. To his credit, the film has its humorous and charming moments, but also has its share of jokes and gags which fall flat. Overall, the movie is tonally unbalanced. It never really balances both the cutesy and horrific portions well. As for the cutesy sequences, some of them are so overly sappy and cliché that I longed for more action, intensity and horror. The end result is a zombie-lite feature which will probably appease the Twilight fan base, but will leave zombie purists exasperated.
Despite the flaws of the screenplay, the cast members all deliver great performances. Teresa Palmer is sweet and lovable as R’s interest Julie. John Malkovich, who portray’s Julie’s father and military leader General Grigio credibly portrays the tough and hardened soldier who is determined to exterminate all zombies out of revenge for the loss of human life. Rob Corddry offers some quite funny comic relief as M, a zombie associate of R. Finally, Nicholas Hoult deserves high praise for his excellent work as a zombie leading man. Hoult commits to his role completely and gives audiences a lovable zombie character with whom they can empathize.
The only reasons I can recommend this film come from some of the heart warming humor, the characters and outstanding cast. Otherwise, the overtly missing elements from the story and the not-so-great marriage between the humor and the horror here cause this movie from losing some serious brownie points. I do love the concept of this latest genre crossover, but unfortunately, this attempt at it seems to have all the usual trappings of typical romantic comedies.