Zombie-slaying Bennet sisters worth cheering for. Zombies, not so much.
More influenced by 2005’s Pride & Prejudice starring Keira Knightley than the classic piece of literature by Jane Austen or the works of George A. Romero, Pride & Prejudice and Zombies, based on the novel by Seth Grahame-Smith, is a mediocre popcorn flick. It’s not as campy or cheeky as I’d had hoped, nor as serious and emotional as it could be if it avoided being the former. Despite the PG-13 rating, there’s enough genre blending jokes and tame action to make the first hour an enjoyable piece of escapism. Unfortuantely, an apparent inability to conclude the story whilst providing a non-anticlimactic finish makes the last 30 min a bore — an uninspired CGI-filled bore. Yet PPZ can be taken in its entirety as a relative success. The failings don’t take away from what most folks will expect from a sci-fi period piece romance (not sure the appropriate genre?) based on a popular piece of spoof fiction.
The cast is great so PPZ has that going for it. Lily James (Cinderella) approaches the role of Elizabeth Bennet with a wonderful blend of confidence, smarts, beauty, and vulnerability, and a natural ability to smash zombie heads. Again, in PG-13 fashion so if you’re hoping for The Walking Dead caliber zombie kills, look elsewhere. Sam Riley makes for a strong Mr. Darcey, complete with a noticeably scratchy voice and youthful British charm. The rest of the cast rounds out nicely, including the supporting Bennet sisters and all the characters you may or may not remember from (either) novel, with Matt Smith (Doctor Who) stealing all his scenes as the flamboyant ass-kissing ignoramus Mr. Collins. He’s hilarious.
The sense of fun in PPZ is best exemplified during the Bennet sisters’ first encounter with the undead. As a zombie attack begins at an estate, we cut to a badass slow motion long take of the weapons-ready sisters strutting and zombie slaying. I remember thinking, ‘hell yes let’s do this!’ The problem is that the high of that sequence doesn’t last too long and it’s a fairly slow downhill roll from there. By the end, I felt like I was watching a cheesy Syfy Channel film, complete with hokey effects and campy lines. Unfortunately, PPZ is packaged differently so I just wish that the film hadn’t taken itself so seriously. Hardcore Austen fans will probably dislike it, and hardcore zombie fans probably won’t care for it either. It’s the middle ground of audiences who’ll have the most fun.
Pride & Prejudice and Zombies comes out in theaters Friday, Feb. 5th.