Movie review in the Friday, Feb. 1 Oregonian....
The zombie rom-com "Warm Bodies" is a bit like its lead character -- the movie takes a little while to find its voice. Once it does, though, it turns out to be a surprisingly sweet and well-acted (if slight and unsubtle) riff on "Romeo & Juliet," in which Romeo just happens to be an undead kid in a hoodie with an evolving taste for vinyl records and brains.
The film -- written and directed by Jonathan Levine ("The Wackness," "50/50") from an apparently quite-good novel by Isaac Marion -- opens on our hero, "R" (Nicholas Hoult), a zombie with a weirdly articulate inner life.
R wanders around in a zombie-occupied airport, frets in voiceover about his inability to connect and taste for human flesh, and grunts one-word pleasantries at the airport bar with his only pal (played with far more conviction than you'd expect by Rob Corddry).
While out foraging for human snacks, R runs into Julie (Teresa Palmer), daughter of the leader (John Malkovich) of a walled city of human survivors. Having just eaten Julie's boyfriend's brains and thus uploaded the boyfriend's memories, R can't bring himself to kill Julie. Instead, he drags her to his airport lair and attempts to woo her, mostly with his LP collection and yearning stares. Lucky for him, Julie apparently has a taste for guys on the absolute extreme end of the emo-and-inarticulate spectrum. The relationship changes him in surprising ways.
Levine and Hoult pull off a neat acting trick here, starting with R's near-silence and gaping hungry gawks and slowly adding words, expressions and speed to the character. The movie wakes up with him. The first half is a bit frustrating in that it can't seem to decide if it's going to fully embrace "Zombieland"-style farce or take a serious stab at the relationship between these two kids (who resemble Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart more than a little). Once the story commits to the romance, it hits a nice B-movie young-adult groove.
I don't want to oversell "Warm Bodies" -- this is, ultimately, a movie in which Julie bonds with R by making him try on sunglasses during a music montage (which is later followed by another music montage in which she puts makeup on him so he'll pass for human). But it's got a big heart and high spirits on a low budget and actors who refuse to phone it in.
(97 min., rated PG-13 for zombie violence and some language) Grade: B-minus
'Warm Bodies' (The Oregonian, Friday, Feb. 1, 2013)