Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Fun and Whimsical, Though Not Much Else
“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains.”
With this opener, we’re off to the races in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, the film adaptation of Seth Grahame-Smith’s 2009 satiric horror novel set in Jane Austen’s world of Pride and Prejudice.
It’s important to note that with a title like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, you can’t expect much from the film in terms of plot or depth. The movie absolutely lives up to expectations: full of whimsy and fun, light on plot. Though perhaps most importantly, the heart of Austen’s classic remains: the Bennet sisters, in a world run by men, remain independent and strong, women in charge of their own fate.
Mrs. Bennet (Sally Phillips) remains a meddling bitty, singularly focused on seeing her d
aughters married. Mr. Bennet (Charles Dance), ever the pragmatist, wants his daughters to be fierce warriors capable of defending themselves in a world overrun by zombies. Jane Bennet (Bella Heathcote) and Mr. Bingley (Douglas Booth) remain star-crossed lovers, separated when the dour Mr. Darcy (Sam Riley) suspects her of being a gold digger.
Elizabeth Bennet (Lily James) remains at odds with Mr. Darcy, still first offended by overhearing him refer to her as “tolerable.” Though their disagreements grow as a result of Mr. Darcy’s desire to kill all individuals suspected of being infected by the virus, and Lizzy’s opinion that there may still be a way to save them. To further fuel the feud, George Wickham (Jack Huston) also enters the ensemble with the same sad story of Darcy cheating him out of his rightful inheritance.
Lest we forget the odious Parson Collins (played by the surprisingly delightful Matt Smith); he remains a plot device for Lizzy to marry in order to secure the family property. Though it does seem strange that England has continued to enforce such ridiculous laws like, “only men can inherit property” in the wake of a century-long plague of the dead. (Personally, I would believe even a partially-armed Lizzy could run off Parson Collins in a second should he ever come to claim his property.)
Though these, again, are the type of details you let slide when the name of the film you’re seeing is Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.
In fact, it’s when the film is at it’s most utterly ridiculous that it shines brightest. Take, for instance, the Lucases’ ball where we first meet Messrs. Darcy and Bingley: the evening ends with the attack of a zombie horde. The Bennet sisters quickly spring into action to defend the party goers, causing Bingley and Darcy to gape at spectacle – commenting on how attractive they find the lithe, deadly movements of the five sisters, as one might comment on the attractiveness a woman’s dancing.
Our Bennet girls also spar (rather intensely) while talking about standard “girly” topics like boys and marriage. Conversations on the attractiveness of Mr. Bingley are made all the more entertaining as Lizzy throws her sister into a basement’s support beam, cracking it.
Truthfully, the movie could have improved if they omitted more of Austen’s original and truly embraced the whimsy. The interspersed moments of standard 19th century English society stand out as overly alien in a world facing a zombie apocalypse. It’s for this reason that I can’t recommend you rush to theaters immediately, but I can assure you of a fun viewing experience once the film makes it to Netflix.