Pajibans: I know you, and you know me. (And none of us know 99% of the people who commented on Courtney’s Hillary Clinton post. NEVER FORGET.) I’m not going to bury the lede with you: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies casts Lena Headey as an “I’m here to kill zombies and do needlepoint, and I’m all out of needlepoint” version of notorious crotchety jackass Catherine de Bourgh, AND IT DOESN’T EVEN GIVE HER A SCENE WHERE SHE KICKS ZOMBIE ASS. And a “fuck you” right back in your general direction, director/screenwriter Burr Steers.
Alas, the lack of Lena Headey zombie-killage is not Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’ biggest problem. Nah. That would be its utter pointlessness and the fact that it tries to turn Mr. Darcy into some black leather-wearing Goth cool dude, which….. NO. Mr. Darcy is a socially awkward nerd potato. WE ALL KNOW THIS.
For those who have managed to remain unaware, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is based on a 2009 book of the same name, which took Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and put zombies in it. That seemed decently fresh and interesting… in 2009. In 2015, after pop culture’s zombie infestation has been rumbling along for a few years, the whole premise seems more than a little desperate.
Of course, “wait, WTF?” concepts have been made into good movies before. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is not one of them. Tonally, it’s all over the place. It aims for horror AND comedy AND period drama AND action AND romance AND sexiness and, oddly, 15-year-old boy humor (a zombie snot bubble joke and a comedy beat where a priest is caught staring at Darcy’s dick. Niiiiiiiice), except it doesn’t actually put any effort into any of those areas. It’s just a bunch of shit thrown at the wall, but not in a fun way.
If you’re an Austen fan, be prepared to wince your way through original P&P bits, with the actors playing the Bennet clan, Darcy, Bingley, and the rest delivering Austen’s famous witticisms with a sense of rote obligation. Sam Riley seems to think the only thing he needs to do to be a credible Darcy is glower a lot, Douglas Booth (as Bingley) is the ur-Abercrombie & Fitch model and nothing more, and Lily James’ Elizabeth Bennet is nothing but British accent + weapon + a constantly heaving bosom in a low-cut gown. She’s a Strong Female Character less in the Austen sense than the ’90s action movie sense: “She’s not like the other women because she can swing a SWORD. Also, she has TITS. LOOK AT HER TITS.”
Even the zombie shit isn’t that great. The plot plods along and occasionally verges into completely nonsensical territory, which is weird when you consider 80% of the plot was already RIGHT FUCKING THERE and has been for some 200 years. There are, however, a few high points. Lizzie literally attacking Darcy during his first proposal is fun. Headey’s great when she gets the chance to do anything, which isn’t often. Jack Huston is an excellent Mr. Wickham. He has charisma and chemistry with Lizzie that Sam Riley-as-Darcy, who behaves like a fucking tree, just doesn’t. Extra points to Huston for keeping what must have been an inner litany of “What the hell am I doing in this? I AM A HUSTON” off his face. Maybe he could have a talk with Jamie “Stinkface” Dornan about “conceal, don’t feel” before 50 Shades Darker starts filming.
Matt Smith, I am happy to report, kills as Mr. Collins. He’s hilarious, and I don’t think that’s just because he was mostly acting against Lily “I’ve been in a few costume dramas before so I guess I’ll just do that again” James. (You were SO GOOD in Cinderella, Lily! What happened?!) Smith actually went to the trouble of making Collins an actual character, instead of attempting to let a gimmicky premise do the heavy lifting for him. The audience at the screening I went to was very quiet, with Smith the only actor who consistently garnered some sort of reaction. So hats off to him, and a
to everyone else.