CHANDLER: Hey, Joe, I gotta ask. The girl from the Xerox place, buck naked… or a big tub of jam?
JOEY: Put your hands together.
I don’t usually start my reviews with quotes from Friends, but when I do it’s because they perfectly sum up the unconventional entertainment that is Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Odds are, if you have both an appreciation of the source material and a love of low budget zombie flicks, you’ll enjoy this hilarious mash up.
The movie really only has one joke, but it somehow manages enough variations to keep it fresh during the duration of its running time. Who wouldn’t get a chuckle out of seeing Mr. Darcy re-imagined as stone cold zombie hunter, or “Lizzy” Bennet frowned upon by the upper class because she received martial arts zombie survival training in China rather than the far more fashionable Japan? It seems like the whole affair should be nothing, if not exceedingly irreverent, but the campy horror elements actually blend phenomenally well with the Victorian romance, and the humor of it all only underlines how beautiful the love story is, regardless of the circumstances surrounding it. It is by no means the “definitive” way to experience Pride and Prejudice, but it certainly makes for an amusing alternative.
The whole affair has the feeling of a BBC special with a slightly larger than usual budget, and I mean that as a good thing. The cast, while not flawless, feel mostly appropriate. Former Cinderella, Lily James actually feels the most out of place as protagonist and “less beautiful Bennet sister,” Elizabeth. I’ll admit it’s fun seeing her trying out a more hard-edged and “scowly” role, but I can’t help but wonder if someone like Emma Watson could have played her better. Sam Riley shines however as Mr. Darcy (zombie hunter). His growling voice and cold countenance suit this version of the character nicely. Most shocking is how earnest and lovable he manages to be in spite of his grim aura, and how well his chemistry is earned with Elizabeth later in the story. Considering the camp factor involved, and how quickly the story is rushed through, it’s surprising how honest the moments of romance feel. Also worth noting is Matt Smith as the hilarious (and probably gay) potential suitor, Parson Collins, and Charles Dance as Mr. Bennet, who proves he plays heart-warmingly supportive father figures just as well as he plays the embodiment of evil (see: the remainder of his filmography).
Ultimately, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies can really only be enjoyed by its target audience, but if you fall into that category it’s definitely worth putting on your “to see” list.