Friday, August 24, 2018

Movie Review: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016)

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016) written and directed by Burr Steers based on the novel by Jane Austin adapted by Seth Grahame-Smith

The hit re-write of Jane Austin's Pride and Prejudice was adapted for the silver screen in 2016. The addition of zombies added a lot of comedy and a different sort of entertainment to the classic novel. How well has the re-write come over to the film?

The base story is still here. The Bennet sisters are looking for marriage in late 1700s England. The family is under the threat of their home going to the nearest male heir, their cousin Collins (Matt Smith), who ineptly tries to woo at least one daughter to keep things in the family. More suitable suitors are found in Charles Bingley (Douglas Booth) and Mr. Darcy (Sam Riley), though they are harder to catch for Jane (Bella Heathcote) and Elizabeth (Lily James) Bennet. Many of the book's details are lost by adapting the story to fit a two-hour movie. The big loss for this movie is the interactions of the Bennet parents, who are a very interesting and comical in the original book.

The film's story adds some new elements amongst the zombie mayhem of the re-write. Wickham is trying to create peace between the zombies and the normal humans using a group of zombies that haven't fully turned and are appeased by pig's brains (much as many vampires have gotten by on pig's blood in other fiction). The new subplot provides extra action if not convincing drama. Wickham's plan seems ridiculous even by zombie movie standards.

The comedy is unfocused. The movie starts with a gross-out joke, suggesting the tone for the rest of the movie. But then there are hardly any more gross-out jokes, which was a relief. The Jane Austin verbal sparring happens with actual sparring, an interesting twist but not laugh-out-loud hilarious. The juxtaposition of the ball-room etiquette with martial arts combat is another mostly missed opportunity for comedy. So the movie is unsatisfying as a comedy.

The drama is good for the Jane Austin parts but the new material is not convincing. The "not fully converted into mindlessness" zombies do not come off well. They eat the pig brains as part of a church service where the brains replace the Eucharist. As a Catholic, I found that in exceptionally bad taste. The acting is okay but never has great moments. Riley as Darcy is particularly flat--he seems more like Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights or Rochester from Jane Eyre. He's broody but not at all superior or prideful.

Not recommended, even if you are a fan of either book.

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