I saw the trailer for “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” several times in the theater. The responses from the audiences were always the same – completely quiet until the end when the title popped up. That’s when chuckles could be heard all through the crowd. How can you blame them? It is such an absurdly comical title. It’s also the main reason I was curious to see it.
It surprised me to find this was actually based on a 2009 book parodying Jane Austen’s classic 1813 novel. David O. Russell was originally slated to write and direct but dropped out for scheduling reasons. A carousel of directors would come and go before Burr Steers took the reins of this wacky project. It’s truly something strange to behold.
PPZ is impossible to categorize. It is a veritable smorgasbord of genres. It could be called several things – a comedy, a romance, a period drama, or a horror picture. As you can imagine some of it works better than others, but just watching Steers try to juggle so many components is entertaining in itself. And the fact that it gets as much right as it does is astonishing.
The story goes something like this: It has been a century since a zombie plague ravaged England and the war between folks and flesheaters rages on. Amid this chaotic 19th century world are the Bennet sisters. Living with their parents on the family estate, these five young ladies aren’t your typical prim and proper aristocrats. At their fathers urging, each girl has been extensively trained in the martial arts and in zombie killing. They are just as skilled at wielding a sword as a corset.
Their father (Charles Dance) wants his daughters to be more in tune with weaponry than the kitchen. Their mother (Sally Phillips) wants to quickly marry them off to the most eligible and wealthy bachelors. The oldest daughter Elizabeth (Lily James of Downton Abbey fame) wants nothing to do with marriage but her sisters are intrigued especially when a handsome young suitor named Charles Bingley (Douglas Booth) moves into the neighborhood.
Elizabeth is the centerpiece particularly her relationships with two very different Englishmen. Her refreshing independence butts head with the mannish arrogance of Mr. Darcy (Sam Riley). Then you have the handsome and noble Wickham (Jack Huston), a soldier who woos Elizabeth with his honesty and charm. It surprised me how much time was spent on this romantic triangle.
All of this makes for pretty good high society drama and it nails its distinctly English period flavor. In fact it would easily pass for a straight-laced Austen adaptation if not for those other two ingredients – the comedy and horror. There are a few laughs but for the most part the humor is restricted to the absurdity of what you’re seeing and in many ways it and the horror go hand-in-hand.
As for the zombies, they aren’t really a focus and they certainly aren’t scary. They mainly serve as part of the setting. When they do bleed over into the story the movie takes a bit of a dive. We get several scattered injections of zombie violence that is wacky enough to be funny at first but it eventually loses its effect. That is a problem because the film goes to that well too many times.
PPZ is a peculiar movie that reaches out in so many different directions. Sometimes its vision pays off while other times not as much. The Austen-esque drama is surprisingly good in large part because of the well written characters and solid performances. It’s the other stuff that causes the film to stumble. At times it seems unsure about what it wants to be – serious or parody, and eventually the novelty of the clashing tones wears off. By the end it’s simply too wacky for its own good. But don’t be fooled (by my criticisms or the goofy title). This isn’t a throwaway movie. Despite its issues, it is still fun and manages to be more entertaining than it had any right to be.
VERDICT – 3 STARS
I’m on same page with you on this one. It is kind of messy but I think it is something different and unique
Likewise. It had a interesting concept, but it had a hard time of balancing Austen’s original story with the zombie / warrior aspect.
Still on the whole I enjoyed it.
Yes. It was outrageous enough to be funny nor serious enough to be…well…serious. It fell somewhere in the middle.
Agreed. I think I would have even liked it better but it kinda flies off the rails at the end.
I haven’t gotten into any Jane Austen related movies before but this could be a decent entry point for me when I have an afternoon to kill. Fine review Keith.
I’m not big into Austen either. Not sure how this does for those strictly looking for an entry. I will say those are the film’s better moments.
Ruth ADORES this film, but I couldn’t get into the mashing. I liked everything about the period telling, the costumes, the acting, but then the knives and zombies came out and I just scratched my head and wondered why?
He..he.. I knew you’d mention me Cindy 😉
I’m glad you somewhat liked this Keith, 3/5 isn’t bad right? ” The Austen-esque drama is surprisingly good in large part because of the well written characters and solid performances.” Yep exactly! It’s an homage AND a spoof at the same time, and I prefer the Austen stuff much more than the zombie stuff of course.
I just posted my top 10 list of the year so far and of course this one made the list. This is one I will defend w/ a passion, I had so much fun w/ it!
It’s great, Ruth, that you are so loyal. 🙂
Heeeey Ruth! Found your comment! Top 10? I like it. As someone who seems to often passionately defend movies others aren’t crazy about (I’m looking at you The Monuments Men), I can really appreciate where you are coming from. Heck I still defend BvS even amid its steady critical bombing! 🙂
Yeah, well top 10 of the year SO FAR. I don’t know if it’ll make my final top 10. Ahah, I think it’s cool that you don’t always agree w/ the critics. Me neither. Heck I actually enjoyed John Carter. I mean it’s not perfect but it wasn’t horrible. As for BVS, did you hear that Mel Gibson just said on Deadline.com that it’s a piece of sh*t? But I think he’s just responding to how ridiculous the budget was (the interviewer said $250 mil) and I think Mel couldn’t fathom how expensive it was. I don’t think he went out of his way to pan that movie as he hasn’t even seen it.
I haven’t seen that! Wow. That is a pretty abrasive reaction to it…LOL
Here’s the full interview http://deadline.com/2016/09/mel-gibson-hacksaw-ridge-venice-film-festival-the-passion-of-the-christ-1201813728/ I still respect him as a filmmaker and think Hollywood unfairly maligned him (though they don’t seem to mind Roman Polanski/WoodyAllen). I’m curious about his film Hacksaw Ridge as the real life person being portrayed is a devout Christian.
I’m really excited for Hacksaw Ridge. Great to see him behind the camera again. And I 1000% agree with you on Hollywood’s selective forgiveness. Ridiculously hypocritical.
Yep, I really think because he made Passions of the Christ he’s *crucified* by the industry, same w/ Jim Caviezel who should’ve won an Oscar for his performance.
Hacksaw Ridge looks VERY brutal though, but I might have to brace myself to rent it one day. It’s getting rave reviews at Venice Film Fest.
I think you’re spot-on. Some of the criticisms and outrage over that film were ridiculous.
I was actually intrigued by that weird twist going in. It’s execution though…a little uneven.
Gotta admit that this is quite intriguing. The premise sounds like absolute dross but I reckon I’ll check it out and see what it has to offer.
It’s pretty good. It falls over pretty significant at the end though.
Better than the book but as a massive fan of the original novel I found it all a bit pointless.
It is kinda pointless, isn’t it? 🙂
PPZ is all you said but really one of my favorite movies. The book is one of a 3 part series written by Steve Hockensmith. There is also a book called Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters. I haven’t read it yet.
Sea Monsters? Oh that’s sounds like a blast.