‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’
Director: Burr Steers
Stars: Lily James, Sam Riley
2 (out of 5) Globes
Is it that hard? Is it really that hard making an enjoyable period romp in which Jane Austen quip-flingers battle the undead? Of course it is! You have to find actors adept at both arch romantic swooning and coldhearted badassery. You have to meld genres that share little in the way of Venn diagram crossover. Horror fans must suffer through tasteful, immaculately costumed pageantry before getting to splattered blood and guts. Meanwhile Austen heads have to swoon at some of literature’s finest, most flowery banter before flinching at exploded heads. In other words, it sounds amusing in theory, and then only for a bit. For it to work in practice you need a miracleworker.
The “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” movie — based on a gimmicky bestseller by Seth Grahame-Smith — didn’t get one. At one point it was to be helmed by David O. Russell, with Natalie Portman as Austen’s headstrong Elizabeth Bennet. But even that didn’t seem right. What it got isn’t ideal either. The director is Burr Steers, the snide smartass behind “Igby Goes Down,” who can handle neither Austen flirting nor beasties being dispatched. Nor can he find a tone that can elegantly wobble between two extremes.
His stars don’t help. Lily James, of “Downton Abbey” and “Cinderella,” is a fierce but not very charming Elizabeth, who, on top of fending off unwanted suitors, also keeps blades underneath her gowns. She doesn’t have much chemistry with Sam Riley’s Mark Darcy, now a zombie hunter who’s more unpleasant than fastidious, and doesn’t even recreate the beloved miniseries’ wet shirt strut. Because that would be funny. And this doesn’t seem to realize it should be a comedy. (Only Matt Smith, as an appropriately befuddled Mr. Collins, knows this should be a joke.)