It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains.
The film adaptation of Quirk Books’ parody novel Pride & Prejudice & Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith takes Austen’s classic tale of love in the English countryside and introduces “unmentionables” — the undead. In addition to their quest for husbands, the Bennet sisters find themselves part of a war against the horde of zombies that threatens England.
Speaking strictly in terms of adaptation, the film doesn’t remain faithful to Pride & Prejudice & Zombies, much less to Pride & Prejudice (which no one expects, based on the zombie additions). It adds some additional plotlines featuring Mr Wickham that Grahame-Smith’s version did not, and it cuts out significant portions of the original plot to make space for the war against the undead. (Georgiana Darcy, for example, is almost entirely missing, except for a wordless 3-second appearance in flashback.)
The greatest strength in the movie, and the number one reason to watch it, is the Bennet sisters. Elizabeth’s relationship with Jane — displayed gloriously during an underground sparring battle-meets-sisterly relationship discussion — is a highlight of the movie, and when the five sisters slay unmentionables at a Meryton ball together? Probably one of the most fun scenes in the movie, period. Lily James is fantastic as Elizabeth Bennet, and Bella Heathcote is possibly my favorite Jane Bennet of all.
In fact, where Pride & Prejudice & Zombies really falls apart is in the parts that originated in Pride & Prejudice, not in Grahame-Smith’s adaptation or the additional zombie embellishments. Those familiar with the story of Pride & Prejudice will find that the pacing of the plot feels incredibly rushed, and some of the side plots, explanations, and characters (like poor Georgiana) seem to have been cut to leave more space for the action.
Most disappointing was Sam Riley’s performance as Mr Darcy, especially in the love confession scene that’s so iconic to Pride and Prejudice. His delivery felt rushed and just plain bad, and the scene was really only salvaged by the entertainment of Elizabeth’s subsequent rejection. Other scenes that are important to Pride & Prejudice but not its zombie counterpart also felt rushed, as if everyone was just itching to get back to the zombie-stabbing.
Surprisingly, the best performance was in a role that had very little alteration in the adaptation: Matt Smith’s role as Mr Collins. The Bennets’ bumbly and weird cousin had a perfect fit in Smith, who probably elicited more laughter out of the audience than any scene aside from Elizabeth’s aforementioned rejection.
While Pride & Prejudice or Regency-era enthusiasts will be a little annoyed by the plot reductions and cultural inaccuracies of the movie, Pride & Prejudice & Zombies is a fun film, with satisfying action scenes that aren’t too gory and a love story of misunderstandings that won’t fail to satisfy. Despite its failings, I’d recommend Pride & Prejudice & Zombies as a fun Valentine’s Day flick to watch with your quirky significant other or your gaggle of best friends.
3.5 out of 5 stars
Feliza Casano edits and writes for all sections of the site. In her approximate 2.3 hours of free time each month, she loves watching anime, reading science fiction, and working on her novels-in-progress. Keep up with her antics at felizacasano.com and follow her on Twitter @FelizaCasano.