John Hanlon Reviews

Film Reviews

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies Review

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Genre: Action and Adventure, Romance

Director: Burr Steers

Cast: Lily James, Sam Riley, Bella Heathcote, Emma Greenwell, Douglas Booth, Matt Smith, Lena Headey, Charles Dance

MPAA-Rating: PG-13

Release Date: February 5th, 2016

Last year, advice Lily James wowed audiences starring as the title character in the highly-acclaimed drama Cinderella. This year, she’s taken on another famous role. She stars as the famed Pride and Prejudice heroine Elizabeth Bennet onscreen this year but this role features her fighting more than evil stepsisters.  She’s fighting for survival in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, the cinematic adaptation of the Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith novel.

This fictional elaboration of the Jane Austen novel was penned by Grahame-Smith a few years ago. Grahame-Smith, the young author behind Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, took the characters and main storyline of Austen’s classic novel and developed a story where the characters weren’t just fighting  their feelings for one another. They were fighting against the undead as well.

The film works as a light-hearted concoction that includes all of the key elements of the Austen novel. Set in 19th Century England, the main characters are as proper and classy as they were originally, save for the fact that they are always packing weapons.

An early scene featuring the uptight Colonel Darcy (Sam Riley) finds him visiting an upper-class home and finding the locals playing cards with one another. After he identifies a zombie amongst them (by having flies seek out the dead flesh in the room), Darcy beheads the zombie leading one high class local shocked and appalled. “Who would dare to leave a zombie head in the middle of the floor,” she asks. It’s that type of humor and dichotomy that keeps this tale amusing throughout its 107 minute running time.

If you’re a fan of the Austen novel, you’ll recognize much of the material here with the Bennet sisters still in search of husbands and Darcy himself still as cold (at least in the beginning) as ever. The friction between Darcy and Bennet is still at the center of the story here but here it’s surrounded by fighting sequences and discussions about incoming zombie attacks.

Because the characters are busy dealing with the undead, the eventual romantic connection between the two leads isn’t as clear and multi-dimensional as it should’ve been but it’s hard to expect much character development in a goofy but funny mashup such as this.

Director Burr Steers, along with much of the cast, is clearly having fun. Steers shows the elegant Bennet sisters preparing for a party with their arsenal hidden under their elaborate dresses. There’s also a few entertaining sequences in which the proper-looking women are  faced with a zombie onslaught. These fierce women are up to the job of protecting themselves.

That being said, one only wishes that the film had gone further into the fun source material and really embraced its silly but memorable premise. For instance, it would’ve been nice to see Darcy’s aunt — an acclaimed zombie fighter named Lady Catherine de Bourgh (Lena Headey) — taking center stage as the distinctive warrior she was.

Despite the film not taking full advantage of its source material, it was still quite fun. This is an action movie that embraces Austen’s story and how Grahame-Smith has redefined the plot around invading zombies. There are a few plot developments here that aren’t as fleshed-out (pardon the pun) as they should’ve been including a discussion about good zombies versus bad zombies but despite issues like that, this was an entertaining and escapist ride that was worth the price of admission.

Review by: John Hanlon