R is not your typical zombie.
He can communicate, at least a little. And death apparently didn't affect his hearing - he prefers vinyl to iPods for the sound quality.
Yeah, he eats brains, but he's not a fanatic about it. At least he isn't a Boney, zombies who are so ravenous that they've resorted to self-cannibalization, leaving only fast moving skeletons that will prey on zombies as well as humans.
But he clearly is dead and not a hot-blooded human. He's more lukewarm.
So, unfortunately, is "Warm Bodies," a movie with a lot of potential that never quite comes to life despite an appealing cast.
The big problem is the script from writer-director Jonathan Levine, who never decides what kind of movie he wants to make.
WHAT: "Warm Bodies"
STARS: Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer, Rob Corddry, Analeigh Tipton, John Malkovich and Dave Franco.
STORYLINE: A zombie falls in love with a human, and those feelings start to have a transformative effect.
DIRECTOR: Jonathan Levine
RATING: PG-13 for zombie violence and some language.
Zombie R (Nicholas Hoult) falls in love with Julie (Teresa Palmer), the daughter of the survivors' leader (John Malkovich), who has turned the city into a walled compound as protection from the creatures on the other side (how that massive wall was constructed in a world where the infrastructure has collapsed is one of the many questions left unanswered). R's feelings for Julie seem to be transforming, not only him, but all of the non-Boney zombies.
Turns out the Beatles had the cure to the zombie plague all along. All you need is love.
With its zombie-human romance, there are elements of "Twilight" here (the fact that Palmer looks like she could be Kristen Stewart's blond sister helps cement the comparison), but this is more zom rom com than zombie romance.
And while R's dry and (excuse the pun) deadpan narration provides plenty of humor, the dialogue produces more smiles than belly laughs. It staggers a bit as a straight comedy.
Filmmakers have been using zombie stories for political and social allegories since "Night of the Living Dead," and "Warm Bodies" takes a swing at that too. In the opening scenes, it hints that humans have turned themselves into zombies, isolating themselves with their smartphones and iPods instead of interacting with each other.
With the giant wall and fear of those on the other side, the movie also takes a couple swipes at immigration. And, later, when the zombies start fighting off the Boneys for the humans, they're like the immigrants doing the dirty jobs Americans would prefer not to do.
There is even a bit of Shakespeare as the script includes a couple riffs on "Romeo and Juliet" - R and Julie, get it? - complete with a balcony scene. But it doesn't really doing anything with the idea beyond a couple of nudge-nudge, wink-wink references.
"Warm Bodies" flits on the surface of a lot of ideas without ever staying on one long enough to get beyond the basics.
Zombie aficionados also will be bothered that Levine never establishes or follows any rules for zombie behavior/abilities. R jokes early on about how slow they are, and then minutes later they're racing toward their prey like Usain Bolt. And while the lead character is named R, the movie is rated PG-13 and that's more for language than zombie carnage. This may be the most bloodless zombie film ever made. "Warm Bodies" will play better with rom com fans than "Walking Dead" viewers.
The cast goes a long way toward making the movie work as a romantic comedy. Hoult makes for a charming zombie, and he and Palmer makes this beauty-and-the-undead-beast romance believable within the context of the story. Malkovich really doesn't have much to do, but he brings authoritarian menace to his few scenes. Rob Corddry and Analeigh Tipton add some laughs as the best friends of the central couple.
"Warm Bodies" isn't bad, but those performances hint that it could have been so much better.