“Pride & Prejudice & Zombies” Movie Review


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     The “mash up” has quietly become its own sub-genre as of late, with more and more films hitting the marketplace combining elements from two genres and carefully blending them together as the characters experience scenarios associated with both.  Sometimes this works well (“Bone Tomahawk”, “From Dusk Till Dawn”), and sometimes it doesn’t (“Cowboys & Aliens”).  An odd pairing indeed is store for those who sit through “Pride & Prejudice & Zombies”, a concoction made up of Jane Austen’s classic story and Seth Grahame-Smith’s novel which introduces zombies into the mix. Writer/director Burr Steers definitely had a serious issue on his hands with how to meld together the British melodrama of Austen’s work with the full on threat of an impending zombie apocalypse, and the overall result here shows how much that struggle ultimately effected the final product.  For most of the film’s running time, “Pride & Prejudice & Zombies” is a literal bore, as the majority of scenes simply rehash the relationships created by Austen while having those roles played by an ensemble of unknown actors who simply aren’t up to the task.

     As the 19th century England story goes, Mr. and Mrs. Bennett (Charles Dance and Sally Phillips) have five grown daughters they wish to find husbands for.  When word spreads that two rich and eligible bachelors are arriving into town, they rush to ensure the duo, Mr. Darcy (Sam Riley) and Mr. Bingley (Douglas Booth), have plenty of face time with their daughters, Elizabeth (Lily James), Jane (Bella Heathcote), Lydia (Ellie Bamber), Mary (Millie Brady), and Kitty (Suki Waterhouse).  This all leads to an endless array of scenes in which the sisters converse with both men, forming various love triangles and creating all sorts of relationship difficulties as each attempts courtship with the other and vice vera.  Problem is, there really isn’t a need to see this material played out again and the addition of a zombie threat adds nothing to the proceedings.  In fact, the set pieces involving zombie attacks are completely miss handled, perhaps due to the limits of the film’s PG-13 rating, meaning nothing on screen comes remotely close to the undead thrills of “The Walking Dead”.

     Grahame-Smith’s novel, as well as Steers’ screenplay adaptation, attempts to compensate for the boredom by fine tuning the lead characters in order to explain how they are able to function in a world with an increasingly large zombie population.  Mr. Bennett sent all five of his daughters to train in the art of combat at a young age, and thus each is presented as having mastered the martial arts and the use of weapons.  This is all well and good, since you won’t have to look far to find a fanboy salivating over the visual splendor of five attractive young women acrobatically flying around a room as they expertly slice and dice a hoard of flesh eating zombies, but that’s where the film will really let those fans down.  The actresses’ fight sequences are horribly choreographed with jerky and unconvincing movements which are unbecoming of people who supposedly are martial arts masters.  This may explain why these scenes are normally short and unmemorable, being mostly shot in the dark and quick cut to hide their deficiencies.  If your expecting to be blown away by these characters and their razor sharp efficiency in which they dispose of the enemy then you will be sorely disappointed.

     That disappointment will likely continue when you try and wrap your head around the whole explanation for the zombies and how they continue to exist.  Apparently they are able to talk and blend into normal society without detection.  Mr. Darcy, who is an expert zombie killer himself, uses a type of fly that is said to be attracted to undead flesh in order to determine who in the room needs to meet the business end of his sword.  It is said the undead don’t fully transform until they have consumed enough human brains in order to make that transformation complete, but there are also a number of head scratchers too.  Namely when one of the sisters runs into a zombie mother carrying a zombie baby.  Does this mean that the zombies are able to procreate?  And if so, how is it possible for an undead person to birth a child?  Are they born undead?  The baby in the scene certainly looks to be a zombie, but does that mean they age and grow up with the rest of the population?

     These and other questions remain unanswered, leaving us hoping the climax of the film will somehow save the story and maybe even make sense of it all, but that turns out to be too much to ask.  Somehow Steers manages to waste “Game of Thrones” vets Charles Dance and Lena Headey in small punchless roles that add virtually nothing to the big picture.  This leaves us with the non stop back and forth between young twenty somethings as they lie and deceive one another in order to land a husband, all the while an army of zombies threatens to overrun London in bland PG-13 fashion.  There’s no doubt “Pride & Prejudice & Zombies” would have benefited from a more seasoned action director in order to ensure those sequences delivered the kind of visuals necessary to counterbalance the Austen source material.  This is where the other film based on a Grahame-Smith novel, “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”, succeeded as it was consistently populated with physics defying stunts courtesy of “Wanted” director Timur Bekmambetov.  Unfortunately, there’s no such luck here.  GRADE: D-