Imagine a "Twilight" where the panting, flirting teens were in on the joke, where the gulf between them was more about communication skills than supernatural schisms.
That's "Warm Bodies," a funny teen romance set against the aftermath of the Zombie Apocalypse. Jonathan Levine ("50/50") has turned Isaac Marion's teen romance novel into an often amusing tongue-in-cheek romantic comedy.
"Why can't I connect with people? Oh, right. I'm dead." He can't remember his name, can't justify his means of survival -- eating the brains of the few remaining humans. And he's lonely. He holes up in an abandoned business jet and listens to old love songs on his battery-powered turntable.
And then he spots "her" -- Julie (Teresa Palmer, "I Am Number Four"), who's gorgeous enough to reanimate the dead.
She's the daughter of the benevolent dictator (John Malkovich) of the local walled enclave of humans, one of the young people considered wily and nimble enough to be sent out foraging among the walking dead -- for medical supplies, canned foods, the things that will keep the human race going a little longer.
The zombies get the drop on Julie and her team. Her boyfriend (Dave Franco) is our hero zombie's latest meal.
Zombie boy rescues, or kidnaps, Julie, depending on your point of view. He strains to form a word, to speak. He plays her his vinyl.
And since he's eaten her boyfriend, he's absorbed their memories together. If he can ever get this speech thing back, if he can ever manage more than a sound, maybe he's got a shot.
Levine shoots the action scenes in brisk strokes, and the romantic ones in warm, extreme close-ups. But the movie is deadly slow, as if Levine was worried teenagers might miss the jokes, allusions and "message" if he went too fast.
PLOT Angst-ridden zombie falls for human girl. RATING PG-13 (zombie violence and some language)
BOTTOM LINE Often amusing, although slow-moving, teen romance