Starring: Lily James and Sam Riley
Directed By: Burr Steers
Synopsis: A adaptation of the infamous Jane Austen tale about five sisters fighting to find love, their place in 19th century and the undead.
Final Grade: C
Recommended For Those Who Like: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Victor Frankenstein
Hit the jump for the full review
Positives: Awarding an “A for effort” is often damning, back-handed praise, but in the case of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, actual merit is due given the task the film had on its shoulders, and the manner in which it tried to satisfy audiences. Seth-Grahame-Smith parody novel adaptation of the same name is, bluntly, ridiculous fun. It takes the beloved Jane Austen story about five sisters in 19th century England wrestling with family, responsibility, duty, and love and simply drops zombies into the story without (really) changing any of the character relationships or motivations. The movie adaptation attempts to capture the success of the best-selling novel(s?) with a direct, however abridged, translation from page to screen, and it did probably as best as it possibly could.
The casting of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is excellent. Of particular note is Lily James (Downton Abbey, Cinderella) as the heroine, Elizabeth Bennet, who does the original Austen material proud through her portrayal of a strong empowered woman who seeks true love as defined by a match with a person who shares her own keen intellect. In this version, she just happens to be proficient with swords and daggers. Also doing excellent work is Matt Smith (Doctor Who), perfectly cast the awkward, bumbling, unintentionally offensive cousin of the sister, Parson Collins. James and Smith are actually so enjoyable, one might be wishing that they will eventually appear in a traditional adaptation of the Austen classic.
Negatives: While Pride and Prejudice and Zombies does great work with the casting, and the cast members deliver, especially during the non-zombie-action bits, a few major issues are prevalent throughout the entire film. First, Austen’s book is mildly epic in scope—the material demands you invest time in order to fully the characters comprehensively to appreciate the complexity of the relationships they develop. At a brisk 107 minutes, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies doesn’t have the time to give the story breathing room so that audiences may connect with the talent. As such, those unfamiliar with the original text may find themselves somewhat confused or lost, missing the subtle (and quick) references that only true Austenites will appreciate.
Also, while crossing genres can certainly result in a clever, refreshingly new final product, the wrong mixture creates only confusion and cacophony. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is a comedy, horror, and period piece of about embolden women struggling to find their place in the world. Writer/director Burr Steers simply doesn’t know how to juggle and blend these three distinct flavors. While the use of the original Austen dialogue layered upon intense fight sequences is amusing, the film never quite gels, leaving the overall experience disjointed and messier than the remains of a zombie horde recently dispatched by the Bennet sisters.
Overall: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is amusing at best, especially due to a few key performances; however, the film represents another data point supporting the evidence that Grahame-Smith novels, no matter how fun they may be, simply don’t make for good movies.
Final Grade: C
Trivia: Natalie Portman was originally cast to play the lead role of Elizabeth Bennet, but had to drop out due to her filming schedule.