If there’s an award out there for the most accurate title of the year, I suspect “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” (PPZ) is the sure winner for 2016.With the exception of the opening scene and maybe the last 25 minutes, PPZ plays out like a loose adaptation of Jane Austen’s original novel. The difference of course, is well, zombies. As characters move from one scene to another, there’s an obligatory zombie fight. After some bloodshed, the story resumes like a proper “Pride and Prejudice” telling should, covering all the necessary plot points and favorite lines — then, more zombies.
Thus the title, “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.”
So does that work? Does “Pride and Prejudice” in anyway benefit from a zombie apocalypse backdrop?
Like always, let’s chat about the highlights:
We mostly covered the premise in the above intro, but for those who know nothing about “Pride and Prejudice,” PPZ follows the Bennet daughters and the many suitors who wish to marry them. The daughters we care most about are first Jane, the fairest — she is pursued by the attractive and wealthy Mr. Bingley. And then there’s Elizabeth, the protagonist, who endures multiple interested gentlemen throughout the course of the story, though we as an audience are waiting for one Mr. Darcy to come around.
With PPZ, characters are generally training for combat as they spin off the daily gossip, and proposal rejections sometimes include a physical confrontation that mirrors the tempo of the conversation, but on a high level the original beats remain. Even the most significant character alteration manages to tie back to the source material, though now it also justifies the zombie battles throughout the film.
The fun of it all
Let’s get the biggest criticism out of the way, and then we’ll chat a bit more about why zombie fans might actually want to matinee this.
Director Burr Steers made the really bizarre decision to take this premise seriously. There’s no real wink to the audience, the characters aren’t in anyway playful and with the exception of the first Bennet daughter zombie thrashing, there really isn’t any style to the injected violence. I don’t know if this decision was made because Steers respects Austen’s original material, but it seems like tacking on “and Zombies” to the end of your title is already a declaration of silliness that should be embraced.
If you’re planning to see this because it sounds like good, cheeky fun, well, you’ll probably be a little disappointed. In fact, every line I remember getting a laugh from the audience was a direct quote form the original material.
With my main gripe out of the way, let’s talk about the film’s greatest strength — Matt Smith.
Smith seems to be the only person involved who realizes dressing Austen’s material in horror garb probably wasn’t a serious endeavor. Even as he plays one of the story’s most obnoxious characters, Smith manages to sneak levity into each of his scenes making this the first version of “Pride and Prejudice” where you actually want Mr. Collins to become a member of the Bennet family. No, not because you’d really wish that fate upon any of the daughters, but just in case there’s a sequel. If box-office returns justify a franchise, audiences will want to make sure Smith is part of the package.
Is it scary?
There is maybe one moment throughout PPZ that some audience members might possibly classify as a jump scene, but it doesn’t really come from a scare. In fact, I don’t remember any place throughout the entire 1 hour 48 hour runtime that actually tried to be scary. It rarely even goes for spooky.
There’s plenty of slicing and bashing and gnawing and all that, but if you’re hoping to get drawn into a creepy setting that stumbles through uncertainty before shouting “Boo!” well, there’s none of that. I know I keep saying this, but this really is “Pride and Prejudice,” and then zombies.
It probably isn’t any surprise that PPZ won’t be winning over the critics. But, keep in the back of your mind that this is a movie called “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.” What that means is, somewhere in the world there’s a group of paying customers saying to themselves, “You know what Jane Austen’s stories are missing? Women crushing zombie skulls with their heels.”
I won’t pretend to speak on behalf of that audience. When I say this movie takes itself way too seriously and probably should’ve never evolved past the what-if stage, I say that as a member of the population that didn’t need to see Elizabeth Bennet as a sword-wielding zombie slayer.
If the title has you intrigued, go see for yourself if zombies go with “Pride and Prejudice.” At the very least, there are those Matt Smith scenes.
If the premise already sounds too out-there for you, or really, if you’re even on the fence about this once, you’re more than good to wait for a Red Box or Netflix night.
“Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” is rated PG-13 for violence, gore and brief suggestive material.
Originally published Studio5.ksl.com