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Pride and Prejudice and Zombies




Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (PG-13)
Film Reviews by Amy Diaz

02/11/16
By Amy Diaz adiaz@hippopress.com



Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy enjoy a repressed flirtation while Britain battles an epidemic of flesh-eating undead in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, a movie that seems about four years too late to really cash in on the whole mash-up thing but hey, people need things to watch when they’re home sick on random Wednesday afternoons.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that when the English countryside is threatened by zombies, the young ladies of marriageable age must learn warrior arts as well as how to catch a husband with good prospects. Thusly while Mr. Bennet (Charles Dance) has sent his girls to China for kung fu training,  Mrs. Bennet (Sally Phillips) is the more excited by the introduction of the wealthy and unattached Mr. Bingley (Douglas Booth) to neighboring Netherfield Park. Second-oldest of the five Bennet daughters, Elizabeth (Lily James) is more interested in excelling at her Shaolin training than finding a husband, but Bingley does quickly become enamored with oldest daughter Jane (Bella Heathcote). Meanwhile, younger daughters Kitty (Suki Waterhouse) and Lydia (Ellie Bamber) agree with their mother’s hope that such a match could mean rich men for all the sisters.
It’s because of such crassness that Bingley’s proud friend Mr. Darcy (Sam Riley) argues against his choice of Jane, even as Mr. Darcy finds himself falling for Elizabeth. Though at first he thinks her tolerable but not handsome enough to tempt him, he gets all goo-goo eyed when he sees her fighting off a horde of zombies who break up a country ball. But then a certain Mr. Wickham (Jack Huston) shows up with a tale of Darcy’s less than gentlemanly past behavior. Can Darcy overcome his pride and Elizabeth her prejudice against his haughty ways? 
This is that kind of movie that, on a few occasions, feels the need to spell out that Darcy’s sin is pride and Elizabeth’s sin is prejudice. Take away the zombies and the fighting you’d have a very simplistic, almost amateurish retelling of the classic Austen story. I say “almost” because the movie makes some interesting choices here and there that even without the zombies would have made it an attention-worthy entry among the different adaptations of P&P. The character of Mr. Collins (Matt Smith), the obsequious parson who wants to marry one (not that he particularly cares which one) of the Bennet girls, has more or less the same lines but his whole character is designed just a bit differently in a way that has nothing to do with zombies. That and a moment when, during the derailed proposal between Darcy and Elizabeth, it comes out that Darcy thought Jane was too cold to Bingley, to which Elizabeth replies “she’s shy!” while throwing a book at his head, point to different directions new adaptations of Pride & Prejudice could go, even without adding elements of the supernatural.
But, of course, this movie does have zombies. Campy, occasionally silly-looking zombies who, because of the rules of how this movie’s zombie-ism progresses, can occasionally talk and pass along information to the living. I don’t know that the movie is as smart as it could have been about the way it fits zombies into a romantic comedy of manners, but it gives the story not only a few “genre out of water” moments of humor but also a bit of urgency.
And, while the movie isn’t a parody, it does have a bit of fun with some of the visuals and beats of previous Pride and Prejudice productions, most specifically the 1995 BBC version that is something of a gold standard (with its Colin Firth and his spectacular slow-burn Darcy). This all adds up to a movie that is silly but more fun than it probably has a right to be, particularly considering that its performances, while not bad, are also not, to a man, memorable.
I read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies way back when it was first a thing (2009). I vaguely remember enjoying how zombies were shoved into the Austen tale. I say “vaguely” because I don’t really remember the story itself, much as I doubt I will remember this movie much beyond having viewed it. It is cute and fun and seems built to evaporate. B- 
Rated PG-13 for zombie action and violence, and brief suggestive material. Directed by Burr Steers with a screenplay by Burr Steers from the novel by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is an hour and 48 minutes long and distributed by Screen Gems. 





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