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Warm Bodies

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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Francis of Assisi: Francis of Assisi was a poor little man who astounded and inspired the Church by taking the gospel literally—not in a narrow fundamentalist sense, but by actually following all that Jesus said and did, joyfully, without limit and without a sense of self-importance. 
<p>Serious illness brought the young Francis to see the emptiness of his frolicking life as leader of Assisi's youth. Prayer—lengthy and difficult—led him to a self-emptying like that of Christ, climaxed by embracing a leper he met on the road. It symbolized his complete obedience to what he had heard in prayer: "Francis! Everything you have loved and desired in the flesh it is your duty to despise and hate, if you wish to know my will. And when you have begun this, all that now seems sweet and lovely to you will become intolerable and bitter, but all that you used to avoid will turn itself to great sweetness and exceeding joy." </p><p>From the cross in the neglected field-chapel of San Damiano, Christ told him, "Francis, go out and build up my house, for it is nearly falling down." Francis became the totally poor and humble workman. </p><p>He must have suspected a deeper meaning to "build up my house." But he would have been content to be for the rest of his life the poor "nothing" man actually putting brick on brick in abandoned chapels. He gave up all his possessions, piling even his clothes before his earthly father (who was demanding restitution for Francis' "gifts" to the poor) so that he would be totally free to say, "Our Father in heaven." He was, for a time, considered to be a religious fanatic, begging from door to door when he could not get money for his work, evokng sadness or disgust to the hearts of his former friends, ridicule from the unthinking. </p><p>But genuineness will tell. A few people began to realize that this man was actually trying to be Christian. He really believed what Jesus said: "Announce the kingdom! Possess no gold or silver or copper in your purses, no traveling bag, no sandals, no staff" (Luke 9:1-3). </p><p>Francis' first rule for his followers was a collection of texts from the Gospels. He had no idea of founding an order, but once it began he protected it and accepted all the legal structures needed to support it. His devotion and loyalty to the Church were absolute and highly exemplary at a time when various movements of reform tended to break the Church's unity. </p><p>He was torn between a life devoted entirely to prayer and a life of active preaching of the Good News. He decided in favor of the latter, but always returned to solitude when he could. He wanted to be a missionary in Syria or in Africa, but was prevented by shipwreck and illness in both cases. He did try to convert the sultan of Egypt during the Fifth Crusade. </p><p>During the last years of his relatively short life (he died at 44), he was half blind and seriously ill. Two years before his death, he received the stigmata, the real and painful wounds of Christ in his hands, feet and side. </p><p>On his deathbed, he said over and over again the last addition to his Canticle of the Sun, "Be praised, O Lord, for our Sister Death." He sang Psalm 141, and at the end asked his superior to have his clothes removed when the last hour came and for permission to expire lying naked on the earth, in imitation of his Lord.</p> American Catholic Blog The joy of the Gospel is not just any joy. It consists in knowing one is welcomed and loved by God…. And so we are able to open our eyes again, to overcome sadness and mourning to strike up a new song. And this true joy remains even amid trial, even amid suffering, for it is not a superficial joy: it permeates the depths of the person who entrusts himself to the Lord and confides in him.

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