Pride and Prejudice and Zombies Burr Steers
Published Feb 04, 2016Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is a very silly film, but that's kind of the point. Light on its feet, and fresher than the last few entries in Zack Snyder's career, this is the mashup his Sucker Punch wished it could be.
This entry in the comedy-horror genre works thanks to its emphasis on world-building, diving into the mythology established by Seth Grahame-Smith in his book of the same name to create a surprisingly comprehensive world in which the undead rub elbows with the British elite. For the most part, it works thanks to a cast equally game for action, plenty of winking and wry social satire, and a light directing touch from director Burr Steers. That being said, a lazy third act brings P&P&Z down substantially, pulling off a solid double when the film could have been a home run.
Much like writer Seth Grahame-Smith's Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter from 2012, P&P&Z is designed for peak meme-ification, based on the sort of book that feels more at home on an HMV shelf than included in the canon of irreverent revisionist fiction. Still, the film works because it fully commits to its ridiculous conceit, following the story of Jane Austen's classic novel, but with the occasional zombie battle that feels like an organic part of the story Steers is telling. By using the Bennet daughters' proficiency at slaying the undead as a means to dig into the book's classic themes of gender and class struggles, the film has more believable stakes than it ought to for such a broad February release. The film has an almost Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker approach to its relentless gags in the early proceedings, but by grounding the film in real anxieties of the time, like the bubonic plague and unwanted arranged marriages, Steers gives the film some credible heart. If that sounds ridiculous, that's because it is.
Austen's book has seen renewed popularity in recent years, with plenty of fresh twists on the classic, as on the YouTube show The Lizzie Bennet Diaries and in Kate Beaton's comic Hark! A Vagrant. While P&P&Z isn't exactly a straightforward adaptation of the book(s), there's enough romance and period details to please fans, while also pushing the PG-13 rating about as far as it can go in the gore department, with plenty of exploding heads and practical makeup to satisfy zombie fans looking for something different.
While the writing is compelling enough thanks to solid turns from Lily James and Sam Riley, the film bears the awkward scars of multiple rewrites and a long development process, resulting in a final act that abandons the heart for something a little more plastic. At one point, David O. Russell was attached to direct, and as James and Riley engage in a battle of wits, it's clear the film could have been something more with a better script. Still, P&P&Z is a lot more fun than it deserves to be, and makes for a light and enjoyable Valentine's Day night out.