Review: Pride & Prejudice…and Zombies
Dainty 19th century England is plagued with disgusting zombie hordes. Strong-willed Elizabeth Bennet (Lily James), like her four sisters, studied martial-arts in China to defend herself against the undead. She finds herself aligned with a man she thoroughly detests, Col. Darcy (Sam Riley), though she concedes he is very adept at dispatching zombies. Jack Huston plays George Wickham, a charmer with none too much fondness for Mr. Darcy. Bella Heathcoate and Charles Dance play sister Jane and Mr. Bennet, respectively. Matt Smith plays prissy sycophant Parson Collins, while Lena Headey appears briefly as Lady Catherine de Bourgh, a warrior woman of a sort.
The key audience for this high-concept 2016 flick from writer/director Burr Steers (“Igby Goes Down”, “17 Again”) would seemingly be Jane Austen fans who think the original text needed to be laced with zombies. Considering how small an audience that likely is, I’m not sure the endeavour was worthwhile. Actually based on a novel by Seth Grahame-Smith (“Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”, which I rather liked the film version of), one wonders if this doesn’t work a lot better on the printed page. For me, I think the ratio of Austen to Zombie is completely out-of-whack, as I have practically zero tolerance for flowery chick-lit about frilly dresses and foppity fop suitors for the most part. This is well-acted, occasionally amusing, but predominantly dull. It’s nowhere near violent enough to work as a zombie movie. Sam Riley thuggishly glassing a zombie in front of some prissy ninnies was funny, but not gory enough. Meanwhile, once you’ve seen one exchange with flowery literary dialogue mixed with martial arts, the joke gets old quickly. It’s cute at first, but overdone. Being about 15-20 minutes too long doesn’t help, either.
The best thing in the film by far is the performance by “Dr. Who” star Matt Smith, who is a riot as the foppiest fop you’ve ever seen. He’s so funny that he doesn’t even have to say anything and I was laughing. Sam Riley makes for a pretty good gravel-voiced Darcy, and the very Orson Welles-ish Jack Huston certainly isn’t miscast here. Charles Dance and Bella Heathcote are completely wasted, and although she does it well, Lena Headey probably needs to be careful what parts she chooses. She doesn’t sleep with her brother in this one, but there’s a bit of Cersei to it nonetheless. Star Lily James is certainly better in this than she was in “Cinderella”.
A bit dull, really. I’m sure someone out there will love this, but with a wildly extreme blend that frankly isn’t in the correct ratio, I just didn’t have fun with this. It’s cute to blend violence and gore with something so dainty and prissy, but it simply doesn’t feature enough zombie action. Some of it is funny, especially when Matt Smith is around, but that’s just not enough.