Kernel Rating (out of 5):
MPAA Rating: PG-13 Length: 118 minutes
Age Appropriate For: 13+. This adaptation of the fictional novel that mashed up the classic ‘Pride and Prejudice’ with the pop-culture trend of zombies is pretty sanitized to earn that PG-13 rating; the zombies are obviously created with cheap CGI and makeup effects, and aren’t scary because of their clear fakeness. There is a variety of violence, including gunfire, stabbing, sword fighting, exploded heads, and slit throats, but barely any blood ends up onscreen. Also a lot of cleavage-heaving for the main female characters, some kissing, implied nudity, one joke about a predatory priest gazing upon a nude man, the suggestion of an improper relationship between an adult man and a teenage girl, and some language.
‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’ is a goofy premise taken to a satisfying girls-kick-butt potential. This big-screen adaptation of the spoof novel ditches some of the book’s darker elements to make a more streamlined female-empowerment story.
By Roxana Hadadi
Every so often, you get a girl in a movie who can kick butt, but it’s usually just one girl, or a girl who is part of a mostly male team. That’s not the case with “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies,” which takes Jane Austen’s Bennet sisters and transforms them into martial arts-trained, gun-wielding, sword-flourishing warriors devoted to fighting the undead. Sure, the premise is ridiculous. But it’s a surprisingly fun, and nicely gender-affirming, counterbalance on a weekend that also sees the premiere of the latest pandering Nicholas Sparks movie.
Based on the satirical, same-named 2009 novel, this film adaptation of “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” streamlines that spoof of Austen’s original work. Many of the more-violent elements are omitted to maintain a PG-13 rating and help keep the film firmly in Bennets-fighting-back territory instead of veering off into various narrative tangents.
Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice has been retold time and time again throughout pop culture, and here we add zombies into the mix. In this alternate version of the novel, a plague has killed millions in the United Kingdom, leaving only three population centers: the city of London; the In Between, which surrounds London; and country estates outside the city.
Most land-holding families have fled to their rural homes, which is where the Bennets live; of the five sisters, oldest sister Jane (Bella Heathcote, of “Not Fade Away”) is the most beautiful and second-oldest Elizabeth (Lily James, of “Cinderella”) is the most fiery. With so few men left in this time of the undead, and even fewer rich men, the girls’ mother is ecstatic when the wealthy Mr. Bingley (Douglas Booth, of “Jupiter Ascending”) and Jane are immediately drawn to each other.
But as swiftly as Mr. Bingley and Jane like each other do Elizabeth and Mr. Bingley’s best friend, Col. Darcy (Sam Riley, of “Maleficent”), irritate one another. She finds him standoffish and dismissive of their family because they aren’t particularly well-off; he thinks her irritating and superficial. Of course, they have much in common—each strong-willed, each loyal, each excellent at zombie slaying—but a series of misunderstandings keeps them apart.
When Elizabeth meets Officer Wickham (Jack Huston, of “The Longest Ride”) and learns of his bad history with Darcy, she thinks her opinions are justified—and that perhaps Wickham could become something more. But zombie attacks are becoming more coordinated and more vicious, and so Elizabeth can’t just worry about whatever is going on with her and Darcy, or her and Wickham, or Jane and Bingley—she has to help her family stay alive, too.
The mashing of “Pride and Prejudice” and the zombies element isn’t, honestly, a very gracious thing, and how the film reconfigures the story’s bad guy is clunky as well. Strangely, for as much as the film commits to the Bennets being awesome warriors (a slow-mo shot of them strapping on weapons is fist-pump-inducing, and so is them training in the basement of their family home, damaging the foundations and angering their parents), it doesn’t give real attention to the undead as anything other than a goofy plot device, so every time one pops up you have to remind yourself of the “and Zombies” part of the film’s name.
But that doesn’t diminish from James’s and Riley’s zippy, feisty chemistry or the hilarious turns from supporting players like Matt Smith as an aloof cousin trying to woo Elizabeth or Lena Headey as the one-eyed, wealthiest warrior woman in London. Everyone in “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” commits fully, and that helps sell this premise. Seeing girls saving the world shouldn’t be a ridiculous idea, and “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” tries its hardest to make sure it’s not.
Interested in a previously released film? Read our reviews of films already showing in your local theater.