[Screen It]


(2016) (Lily James, Sam Riley) (PG-13)

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Action/Horror/Comedy: In 19th century England where London is a walled, safe haven from zombies, a number of highly trained sisters must not only contend with the undead, but also the callings of their aristocratic society, including the prospects of marriage and finding the right man.
It's 19th century England and most of the country has been overrun by zombies hungry for human brains. Due to a one-hundred foot guarded wall and huge moat, London has been a safe haven from the undead, but those brain hungry monsters have been making inroads. Accordingly, the young adult daughters of Mr. Bennet (CHARLES DANCE) -- Elizabeth (LILY JAMES), Jane (BELLA HEATHCOTE), Kitty (SUKI WATERHOUSE), Lydia (ELLIE BAMBER) and Mary (MILLIE BRADY) -- have not only been taught the manners of high society, but also that of the deadly martial arts in order to defend themselves. While Elizabeth is proficient in the latter, she has no intention of being paired off by her mother with some man simply for the sake of being married, although she doesn't mind that Jane is currently being courted by Charles Bingley (DOUGLAS BOOTH).

That man's friend, William Darcy (SAM RILEY), is also more interested in killing zombies than finding a wife, but initially antagonistic turned flings of romantic sparks fly between him and Elizabeth. Things become more complicated when Lt. George Wickham (JACK HUSTON) -- who grew up with and then apart from Darcy -- shows up. He has eyes for Elizabeth, as does her cousin, Parson Collins (MATT SMITH), but Wickham is also hoping to convince regal warrior Lady Catherine (LENA HEADEY) that a new tactic might be in order for dealing with the zombies. As the attacks by the undead increase, it's unclear who Elizabeth will fall for, if anyone, and whether anyone will survive the zombie apocalypse.

OUR TAKE: 4 out of 10
If you're a studio executive with the power to green-light movie projects, and especially if you're employed by a publically traded company, the potential net profit is often at the top of the list of things to be considered for giving such a go-ahead. After all, while most movies hopefully have some (or a lot) or artistic potential, the industry isn't called show business by accident.

And that's why there's a plethora of movies featuring superheroes along with remakes and other stories based on previously existing material. It's, as they say, all about the Benjamins (those would be one-hundred dollar bills), and the more people that can be enticed to take a seat and take in your film, all the better.

With that mentality in mind, if one genre is good, certainly two must be better, right? In the latest mash-up of genres -- and falling in the footsteps of the likes of "Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter" -- we now have "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies."

It's based on the 2009 work of the same name by Seth Grahame-Smith, and, as the title obviously suggests, features characters from one of Jane Austen's most popular works, as well as, well, zombies. Whether diehard fans of Elizabeth, Mr. Darcy and Charles Bingley mix with those who love the brain craving un-dead that have become increasingly fan favorites in lots of pop culture entries remains to be seen, as does the resultant box office returns.

But the question remains about whether the two genres come together in a satisfying, entertaining and enjoyable fashion. Having just sat through the 108-some minute long film, I can say that the unusual pairing works for a while. Writer/director Burr Steers approaches the material with a sly, tongue-in-cheek manner where it's only natural that the young sisterly lasses dress in both corsets and garters that hold knives large enough to dispatch zombies with ease and as needed. And when they're not doing that -- natch, sometimes in slow motion to make the fatal blows all the more cool -- they're longing for getting paired off with any eligible bachelors.

That is, except for Elizabeth (a winning Lily James) who doesn't want to be herded off like some heifer and put on display for the highest aristocratic bidder. That puts her at odds with Darcy (Sam Riley), although he's initially more interested in outing and slaying zombies than winning her over. Much of the rest of Austen's plot elements show up as well, and there's plenty of zombie tropes for those who apparently can't get enough of these characters. The result isn't as anywhere as cheeky fun as "Shaun of the Dead," and notwithstanding the work of the makeup and exploding heads special effects crews, the material isn't particularly exciting from that angle.

Part of the problem is that all of this is just one high concept application (zombies appearing in an Austen work) that doesn't really do much or go anywhere with the material once the novelty has worn off. For me, rather than having this story take place well into the zombie invasion -- so much so that the girls' father (Charles Dance) has raised and had them trained in the use of martial arts (another genre thrown into the mix, but only half-heartedly) -- I would have started the tale as it's normally done and then introduce the zombie problem.

Granted, that would eliminate those aforementioned, slow-mo action scenes of the ladies kicking and killing zombie butt with ease. Yet, even that added "attraction" loses its allure after the seventh of eight zombie has met their demise via an array of available weaponry.

Better in the first half than in the second, but not even clever or fun enough with that novelty, "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" is only good enough to rate as a 4 out of 10.

Reviewed January 27, 2016 / Posted February 5, 2016

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