While the concept of a “literary classic” and “zombiepocalyse” mashup is intriguing, the horror comedy “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” (now playing in theaters nationwide) never makes the leap from interesting story title to entertaining movie.
In short: In a parallel universe to “Pride and Prejudice,” Elizabeth Bennet (“Cinderella” star Lily James) and her sisters deal with tangled relationships in 19th century England — but in a world where zombies are also a common threat. (watch the trailer)
Layering a zombie outbreak over the basic plot structure of Jane Austen’s literary masterpiece is forced, to say the least. At times, the whole zombie threat is a complete afterthought – a shoddily applied bit of background noise that interrupts the “Pride and Prejudice” plot points. The zombie bits and the Jane Austen story structure never gels together – they are more like oil and water than the combination of surprising ingredients that compliment each other wonderfully (ie, two chocolate and peanut butter).
For an alleged horror-comedy, “Zombies” does not sincerely commit to either genre. It’s never scary enough to be taken seriously as a terrifying zombie flick or self-aware enough to laugh at the genuine silliness of the film’s premise. This lazy and crude combination of Jane Austen and zombies evidently thinks the ‘horror comedy’ formula is as simple as sprinkling a few lame/broad comedic beats and throwing some monsters into the mix for good measure.
And for good measure, entire scenes are introduced that simply go nowhere. Lady Catherine de Bourgh (Lena Headey) appears for a few scenes – and where she has a prolonged conflict with Elizabeth — but that scene is crudely resolved and appears to have no long-term implications (although it should). The larger plot with charming soldier Mr. Wickham is pretty obvious – and his character is unceremoniously given no good resolution. And the entire third act – involving a zombie uprising – is unsatisfying on pretty much all levels: it lacks build up to create any sort of story tension and ends with a dull thud.
The acting trio Lily James, Sam Riley and Matt Smith (of “Doctor Who” fame) bring their A-games to this otherwise unimpressive movie. James excels in this offbeat take on the iconic Elizabeth Bennet – she is the admirable and independent young woman, who can also kick some zombie ass. Riley’s Mr. Darcy remains every bit the aloof and superior romantic foil for Elizabeth – and his no-nonsense execution of zombies is uncompromising. And perhaps the only actor who knows he is in a comedy is Smith, whose portrayal of the excessively silly Mr. Collins is the most consistently irreverent aspect of “Zombies.”
Final verdict: About the only inspired aspect of “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” is the movie’s title.
“Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” is now playing in theaters nationwide. This horror comedy is rated PG-13 for zombie violence and action, and brief suggestive material.