Review: 'Pride and Prejudice and Zombies' is a teen idol comedy for literature fans

The swordfighting Bennet sisters in “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.” (© 2015 CTMG, Inc. All rights reserved)

Marcus Goh is a Singapore television scriptwriter. He’s also a Transformers enthusiast and avid pop culture scholar. He Tweets/Instagrams at Optimarcus and writes at marcusgohmarcusgoh.com. The views expressed are his own.

Secret ending? Mid-credits.

Running time: 108 minutes (~2 hours)

“Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” is an American period comedy, despite its British setting, based on the novel of the same title. It’s a parody of the classic Jane Austen novel, “Pride and Prejudice,” with the added wrinkle of an impending zombie apocalypse. It stars Lily James (Elizabeth Bennet), Sam Riley (Mr Darcy), Jack Huston (Mr Wickham), Bella Heathcote (Jane Bennet), Douglas Booth (Mr Bingley), Matt Smith (Mr Collins), Charles Dance (Mr Bennet), Lena Headey (Lady Catherine), Suki Waterhouse (Catherine Bennet), and Emma Greenwell (Caroline Bingley). It is rated NC-16.

“Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” is a hilarious hoot that mixes two unlikely but popular genres into a comical mix of seriousness and frivolity. It’s especially funny if you’re a reader of Jane Austen, especially since both genres come from entirely different eras and were never meant to co-exist. Still, the reimagining of a zombie attack in the Georgian era is particularly creative, even as the characters engage in their romantic dalliances.

Elizabeth Bennet (Lily James) slices some zombies in “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.” (© 2015 CTMG, Inc. All rights reserved)

Highlights

Meld of British and American humour

The droll British wit contrasts well with the slapstick laughs of American humour, giving us both quick comic gratification as well as higher level intellectual jokes. The different types of comedy extends the range and appeal of the film, and tickles you on all levels.

Surprisingly good action

Given that there are so many other aspects of the film to focus on, such as the sets, costumes and make-up, it’s amazing how they still maintained the quality of the fight scenes. The cast is surprisingly adept in both melee and ranged combat, and this applies to the supporting cast as well. It’s enjoyable and adds to the quirkiness of the movie, giving it its own distinctive flavour.

Juxtaposition of British period setting amidst American zombie attacks

The film captures what made Jane Austen’s works so entertaining, such as the verbal sparring between its main characters — but layers this with amusing zombie fights or physical clashes between characters. Being British, their reactions to the zombie attacks are considerably different from what we’re used to. There are no hysterics or stereotypical responses to the situation, but strangely quiet stoicism. It’s a novel (get it?) approach, and feels pretty refreshing for a zombie film.

Hews closely to the story while maintaining zombie additions

Classic scenes from the book are recreated without missing a beat amidst the zombie madness around them. In fact, it’s impressive how closely they followed the original story while still inserting a whole new subplot about the zombie invasion of Britain that’s coherent and fairly logical. It does justice to Jane Austen’s work, even though it’s zombie-ridden homage.

Cast is easy on the eyes

It’s a shallow point, but the fact that the cast is made up of young, good-looking thespians of both genders makes the film very watchable. It’s another bonus in an already delightful film, and this teen idol movie quality helps smooth over any disbelief or quibbles you might have with the premise. After all, wasn’t the original “Pride and Prejudice” also about attractive young adults getting into relationships, which is essentially what a teen idol movie is?

Elizabeth Bennet ponders in “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.” (© 2015 CTMG, Inc. All rights reserved)

Letdowns

Lack of chemistry between leads

Lily James and Sam Riley don’t have a genuine emotional connection. Instead, they look like they’re putting in great effort to maintain pained and irritated looks with each other. Perhaps their costumes are stifling their performances, even though they manage their action scenes pretty well. This makes their love story unbelievable, and that’s the crux of the whole movie.

Darcy (Sam Riley) and Elizabeth Bennet must put their differences aside in “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.” (© 2015 CTMG, Inc. All rights reserved)

“Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” is a tremendously funny comedy that respects its source material, while juggling its myriad aspects well, such as the zombies, action, British period setting and humour. Even if you’re not a literature buff, you’ll still enjoy its refreshing approach to the genre(s).

Should you watch this at weekday movie ticket prices? Yes!

Should you watch this at weekend movie ticket prices? Yes, especially if you like literature and teen idol dramas.

“Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” opens in cinemas 11 February, 2016 (Thursday).