Overview: Jane Austen’s classic work of Victorian morals and ethics is given the genre-film treatment with the added inclusion of an entirely ridiculous sub-plot concerning a zombie apocalypse. Lionsgate and Screen Gems; 2016; Rated PG-13; 108 minutes.
A Truth Still Universally Acknowledged: Writer-director Burr Steers’ loving adaptation of the popular adaptation of the classic Jane Austen novel from genre mash-up wunderkind Seth Grahame-Smith, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, is exactly what you would expect. Borrowing heavily from Austen’s impeccably written prose, while imbuing some of Grahame-Smith’s invented horror shtick, Steers’ film is an exhaustive feature film adaptation of the well-honored love story held between one Elizabeth Bennet and her intended beau Fitzwilliam Darcy. What’s surprising about the entire torrid affair is that the Steers’ latest motion picture works more often than not. It’s easy to poke holes in the intrusive nature of its supported gimmick-based sub-plot, but much of the undead horde who serve as supporting players in this latest take on the works of the aforementioned premiere English novelist are surprisingly captivating, albeit a distracting nuisance, throughout. There’s enough of the original romantic comedy intact in the film’s script to make Pride and Prejudice and Zombies worth your time, provided you enjoy Austen’s eponymous work to begin with.
Plenty of Heart and Brains: Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of Steers’ new movie is how funny it is, despite the redundancy of its outstanding premise. Adding the zombie apocalypse into a story as well known as Pride and Prejudice is already might make for a terrible studio comedy that could be misconstrued as an action romp meant to cater to, presumably, heterosexual men entirely unfamiliar with the British prose that gave the film birth and primary inspiration. But such is thankfully not the case. Throughout the film’s relatively fast-paced and thrilling 108 minute runtime, Steers’ keeps much of Grahame-Smith’s obvious acknowledgement and debts to the wit and integrity of Austen. He delivers one of the best adaptations of Pride and Prejudice to grace the silver screen in a long time, with plenty of heart and brains. The narrative inventions created entirely for the sake of serving the film’s ludicrous horror-themed ingenuity is entirely deserved via the persistent power of Austen’s original comedy, making the movie one to be enjoyed by fans of the novel first, which is why the central romance still rings true in the end.
Truncated to Comic Effect: In composing the script for the film, Steers has been able to discern the most immediate aspects of Austen’s novel, and Grahame-Smith’s off-brand comic appropriation, and delivered a truncated version of the basic story that soars with clarity, brevity, and good will. There are certainly scenes and sequences that have been shortened for the sake of pace, and much of the zombie sub-plot can take one aback amid all of the otherwise untouched dialogue largely borrowed from Austen directly, but such sacrifices ultimately coalesce around a movie that’s just plain fun to watch. Grahame-Smith, whatever you might think of his intentions, has crafted an entirely engaging gimmick-based take on Austen’s masterwork, and Steers’ has delivered said reinvention on the big screen with plenty of grandiose genre-theatrics and top-notch performances to match.
Overall: By the end of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, you’d find yourself hard-pressed to find any faults with this piece of genre-reinvention, and you might just find yourself approving of some of the onscreen zombie mayhem.
Featured Image: Lionsgate/Screen Gems