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Pride and Prejudice and Zombies - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
Directing: B
Acting: B
Writing: B-
Cinematography: B+
Editing: B

There's something weirdly impressive about Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, in a literary sense: it's an uncannily faithful literary adaptation for something rendered a parody by adding zombies. Like the 2009 parody novel on which it's based, which had the same rather straightforward title, it follows all the same story beats as the original Jane Austen novel. It's just that in this alternate universe, Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy traverse their ultimately begrudging romance while also fighting the undead.

Full disclosure, I would normally avoid a movie like this. I had zero interest in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, but then, I never read that book either, even though it was written by the same author. But for some reason I got a kick out of the idea of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and the book, while not exactly a masterpiece, delivered on its promise of bizarre fun. (Incidentally, I read it as a direct follow-up to reading the original Pride and Prejudice for the first time.)

But then we must return, yet again, to how much I harp on movies needing to be judged on their own merits, rather than as compared to the source material it's adapted from. A case like this gets muddied, though, because Pride and Prejudice is a famous literary classic with a great many cinematic adaptations. "And Zombies" could be considered just another in a long line of them. There are so many, you might argue that adding zombies is the only way to make one that truly stands out against all the others. And in this case, I just can't help myself: if you really want to experience the self-aware dumb joys of a story like this, you really should just read the book. The highlight of the novel, a sword fight between Elizabeth and Lady Catherine, is nowhere near as thrilling in the movie.

Which is too bad, considering Game of Thrones's Lena Headey was cast as Lady Catherine de Bourgh, who here is a badass zombie fighter with an eye patch. If that's not inspired casting, I don't know what is. The same goes for Charles Dance (oh hey, Cersei's dad!) as Mr. Bennet. Unfortunately, both these actors are woefully underused, ultimately wasted as the script, by director Burr Steers (Igby Goes Down, 17 Again), favors focus on the comic conceit of 19th-century Brits navigating courtship while also facing the threat of armies of the undead.

To be sure, this conceit is often a lot of fun to watch. What I wanted more of was well-choreographed battle sequences, which this movie is oddly short on. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is content to skate on its absurdist humor, which often does indeed work -- but when it veers into fight scenes, it always feels like something is missing. Like thrills. A movie like this, even if presented as a comedy, is clearly meant to be an action comedy, and not enough time was spent on making the fight scenes fun to watch. The end is a particular let-down: you get the mere suggestion of a huge battle full of carnage, but you never actually get to see it.

Such is the problem, perhaps, with making a movie like this rated PG-13 -- clearly to reach a wider audience. I would argue that more people would have gone to see this movie if it were allowed to have more graphic violence. I suppose there's also an issue with Lily James, who is serviceable but ultimately a rather bland Elizabeth; and a gravely-voiced Sam Riley as Mr. Darcy. This may be a parody but some level of chemistry still might have been helpful.

So, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is just goofy fun, nevertheless full of unrealized promise. It could be funnier, and it could be more thrilling. This movie needs more of both. The flip side is that it's still far better than any movie called Pride and Prejudice and Zombies has any right to be. It got several good laughs out of me. I'm just hung up on how easily it could have been done better. This is one case where I'd tell you the movie is fine, but you're still far better off reading the book. It's a literary parody, after all, and in spite of the countless cinematic adaptations that exist, the parody works far better in prose form.

Lily James is a badass Elizabeth Bennet in PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES.

Overall: B
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