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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Warm Bodies

By
Adam Shaw
Source: Catholic News Service


Teresa Palmer and Nicholas Hoult star in a scene from the movie "Warm Bodies."
Wouldn't classic love stories like Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" be all the better if zombies were thrown into the mix?

Agree or disagree, that's the basic thrust of director and screenwriter Jonathan Levine's "Warm Bodies" (Summit)—an oddly touching picture based on Isaac Marion's novel of the same name. Unusual for its genre, this monster mash goes light on the gore, and contains a surprising number of Christian-friendly themes.

The premise is as old as boy meets girl ... well, nearly. A mysterious virus has turned vast hordes of humanity into flesh-eating monsters, and those who have remained human are camped out in hastily built fortresses.

One of the undead, known as R (Nicholas Hoult), finds he's able to think semi-rationally, and even curb some of his brain-munching instincts. He grapples with this realization as he comes across the very-much-alive Julie (Teresa Palmer). Somewhat inauspiciously, R initially spies Julie while he's ingesting her boyfriend, Perry (Dave Franco).

Nonetheless, on a whim even he finds surprising, R rescues Julie from certain death at the hands of his hungry companions. He then keeps her safe and fed, and also entertains her with the collection of vinyl records he preserves in the grounded plane that serves as his base.

As his relationship with Julie blossoms, they both come to recognize that R is becoming more and more human with each passing day. And he might not be the only zombie to be affected by this phenomenon. It's a process that begins with the emotional stirrings of the once-flatlined heart, and may end in a fully restored life.

The couple must use their newfound knowledge to try and reconcile the zombie gangs with the militaristic humans, the latter led by Julie's father, Gen. Grigio (John Malkovich). This task is all the more urgent because a new enemy threatens both groups: So-called "Boneys"—zombies in the last stages of decay who roam the earth as evil skeletons.

Redemption, in Levine's script, comes through love, whether it be R's deepening feelings for Julie or other zombies' recollections of their beloved families. Those who have no such reaction, by contrast, are consigned to torment as their need for flesh consumes them.

R initially believes he has no choice but to follow his base cannibalistic desire. But once he meets Julie, he discovers that, while the temptation to do so is still strong, he is able to resist it in order to become a better—more fully alive—person.

R's restraint in the pursuit of virtue may represent an unusual version of asceticism. Yet, by analogy at least, it certainly stands in contrast to the prevailing message of contemporary society that happiness can be found by pursuing every materialistic or bodily urge.

However remotely, given the context, R's discovery that self-denial can result in our becoming more human—and better able to care for those we love—does echo Jesus' exhortation to take up the cross and follow him.

The film contains some restrained gory violence, occasional profanity, at least one instance of rough language and about a half-dozen crude terms. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III—adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13—parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

*****
Adam Shaw is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.



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Anthony Grassi: Anthony’s father died when his son was only 10 years old, but the young lad inherited his father’s devotion to Our Lady of Loreto. As a schoolboy he frequented the local church of the Oratorian Fathers, joining the religious order when he was 17.
<p>Already a fine student, he soon gained a reputation in his religious community as a "walking dictionary" who quickly grasped Scripture and theology. For some time he was tormented by scruples, but they reportedly left him at the very hour he celebrated his first Mass. From that day, serenity penetrated his very being.
</p><p>In 1621, at age 29, Anthony was struck by lightning while praying in the church of the Holy House at Loreto. He was carried paralyzed from the church, expecting to die. When he recovered in a few days he realized that he had been cured of acute indigestion. His scorched clothes were donated to the Loreto church as an offering of thanks for his new gift of life.
</p><p>More important, Anthony now felt that his life belonged entirely to God. Each year thereafter he made a pilgrimage to Loreto to express his thanks.
</p><p>He also began hearing confessions, and came to be regarded as an outstanding confessor. Simple and direct, he listened carefully to penitents, said a few words and gave a penance and absolution, frequently drawing on his gift of reading consciences.
</p><p>In 1635 he was elected superior of the Fermo Oratory. He was so well regarded that he was reelected every three years until his death. He was a quiet person and a gentle superior who did not know how to be severe. At the same time he kept the Oratorian constitutions literally, encouraging the community to do likewise.
</p><p>He refused social or civic commitments and instead would go out day or night to visit the sick or dying or anyone else needing his services. As he grew older, he had a God-given awareness of the future, a gift which he frequently used to warn or to console.
</p><p>But age brought its challenges as well. He suffered the humility of having to give up his physical faculties one by one. First was his preaching, necessitated after he lost his teeth. Then he could no longer hear confessions. Finally, after a fall, he was confined to his room. The archbishop himself came each day to give him holy Communion. One of Anthony’s final acts was to reconcile two fiercely quarreling brothers.</p> American Catholic Blog God of love, as I come to the end of this Advent season, my heart is ready to celebrate the birth of Jesus. I join with Mary in saying, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Nothing is impossible with you, O God.

 
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