I tried but could not finish the book by Seth Grahame-Smith. The idea of zombies in the Regency period of Jane Austen is terrific; mashing it up with her classic novel Pride and Prejudice did not work so well as a book and barely works better as a movie. It does work better, as watching Pride and Prejudice and Zombies takes a lot less time than reading it would.
For those who do not know Austen’s classic tale, the main characters are the Bennets, a family blessed with five daughters all in need of a husband, as they will lose their estate upon the death of their father, Mr. Bennet (quite gamely played by Charles Dance). Elizabeth “Lizzie” Bennet (Lily James from “Downton Abbey” and Disney’s live-action Cinderella) is the headstrong second daughter who develops a love-hate relationship with the novel’s legendary Mr. Darcy (Sam Riley, who is not nearly as charming as previous Darcys Colin Firth or Matthew Macfadyen).
In Grahame-Smith’s mash-up, Lizzie and her sisters have been trained in deadly Eastern arts to battle the zombie hordes threatening England. Mr. Darcy is now a colonel, also skilled in killing zombies. The bulk of the plot is untouched, if rushed and abridged. Darcy, clad like a Nazi vampire school-shooter, barely has time to develop from a jerk into a beloved romantic hero. Jane (Bella Heathcote) still pines for Mr. Bingley (Douglas Booth), and Parson Collins (former Doctor Who Matt Smith, who provides the movie’s most positive energy) still skulks around Lizzie looking for a proper match. Wickham (Jack Huston) is still an unsurprising cad.
The movie gets the zombies better than the Pride and Prejudice. These walking dead are gross; kudos to the effects team. Too bad it’s less graphic than an episode of AMC’s “The Walking Dead.” Whatever good zombie kills and grotesquerie is planned gets marred by the over-editing necessary for the PG-13 rating. 17 Again’s Burr Steers was not the best director choice for this action-oriented zomcom that needed a smarter, zanier creative force like Edgar Wright or Attack the Block’s Joe Cornish. It’s doubtful Pride and Prejudice and Zombies will jumpstart a similar cottage industry of classic lit/movie monster mashups.
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