In vain I have hoped. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. But first, you must pardon the freedom with which I demand your attention. The first whisper of this book’s existence was a thrill to me – two of my favorite things, combined in a heady soup of delight? What could go wrong? When Seth Grahame-Smith’s book came out, I greedily slurped it down, only to find that he had not only tacked on a lot of ninja foolishness and modern attitudes, but he had dispensed with all the literary delights of the original novel. It was tosh unworthy of its concept, and frankly, I took a rather scathing eye to the whole thing.
Then a movie!? The ultimate endorsement that only encourages more craptastic stabs at fun mashups? Yet, the opportunity arose to see it with two intimates, one who loves zombies as I do, and one who loathes them. Our trio are naturally steeped in the Austen novel, so it was the right moment. As the lights went down, we all quietly prayed “pleasedontsuckpleasedontsuck” and consoled ourselves with the knowledge that at the worst, the movie would at least be shorter than the book.
Dear Readers, we were, from the opening illustrated history of Britain to the harrumphs of the annoyed theatre staff trying to chivvy us out of our seats, delighted to our cores. Director/screenwriter Burr Steers (Igby Goes Down) gave us the movie we so desperately craved. He kept the squirmy drawing room delights of Austen’s novel intact, and jettisoned all the crappy tacked-on ridiculousness of Grahame-Smith’s book, to make the perfect Bennets versus Zombies movie! Steers balances camp and zombie mayhem and Regency manners and wordplay just perfectly, and his earnest cast give it their all. There are Austen fan gifts aplenty (“Two dances!”), incredibly sexy gentry-appropriate combat gear, and ooey gooey zombies in bonnets and cravats. Drool-worthy combat-cut pelisses and boot knives, oh my! One notable scene after Darcy (Sam Riley from Maleficent) proposes (a scene worthy of the admission price alone), we were rewarded with exactly the moment we hoped for.
This cast would work well for a straight Austen adaptation, and they play it as one, which is why it works. Elizabeth Bennett (Cinderella’s Lily James) is charming, witty, and smart, and she shaolin-kicks her way into the pantheon of those who still blush at an ungloved hand. Riley’s leather-coated Darcy needed a lozenge but was the perfect amount of haughty and combat-ready that this film required. And Wickham! Dastardly Wickham (Boardwalk Empire’s Jack Huston) – if you think his original garden variety perversions were wicked…well, lock up your daughters anyway. Just to make things tastier, we have Charles “Tywin Lannister” Dance himself as the beleaguered Mr. Bennett, partnered by Bridget Jones’ Sally Phillips as a shameless Mrs. Bennett, and oh, dear heavens above, Lena Headey as Lady Catherine de Bourgh. In an eye patch. Wielding swords. Rosings is a temple to her battle prowess, and her simpering sycophant Mr. Collins (Matt Smith, yes that Matt Smith) dandies about in her wake. For non-Austen readers, Mr. Collins is always supposed to be ridiculous, but Smith finds a whole new twit in this sad little parson.
I cannot describe to you the paroxysms of joy that rolled through us in the theatre, for to properly describe them would be both unseemly and embarrassing. I’m sure the box office for this movie is poor because of the book, and when was the last time a movie adaptation was better than its source material? 2003’s Pirates of the Caribbean, and before that 1985’s Clue, so please, go, go see Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. We will all be ever sensible of the warmest gratitude toward Burr Steers, who, by properly bringing zombies into Derbyshire, has been the means of delighting us.
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Release date: 1/21/16
Time in minutes: 107
Director: Burr Steers
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