Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Genre-Bending Mash-Up Doesn’t Quite Translate to Big Screen
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Who would have ever thought that a literary classic such as Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice would ever be considered for a monster mash up experiment? Written and directed by Burr Steers – 17 Again, Charlie St. Cloud – and based on Seth Grahame-Smith’s horror-spoof of the 1813’s classic, this is an adaptation that is entertaining in parts, but doesn’t really come out full force, resulting in an amusing yet largely unimaginative blend of brain-eating galore and aristocratic British Regency romance.
Set in the alternate world of 18th century England, a mysterious and an extremely infectious plague – which as a result creates a fast-spreading horde of flesh-eating zombies – has put the British people and its government on high alert, forcing abandon people to turn to martial arts and other methods of physical training in order to stay alive.
One of those people is Mr. Bennett (Dance); an elderly British aristocrat who spends most of his days encouraging his five daughters, including Elizabeth (James) and Jane (Heathcoate), to keep up with their training in order to become the most skilful zombie-killers around. However, he would also like to see his beautiful daughters open to marital opportunities, which become very likely when the incredibly handsome and extremely wealthy, Mr. Bingley (Booth), takes an interest to Jane.
Meanwhile, Elizabeth – the second oldest of the five sisters – catches the eye of one Mr. Darcy (Riley); a respected and a highly-skilful zombie-hunter while other possible suitors, including the arrogant chancellor Mr. Collins (Smith) and a war hero, Mr. Wickham remain close by, ready to grab her attention.
While the idea of blending the two extremes – brain and guts on one side and costume romance drama on the other – might have looked good on paper, execution of it doesn’t match its ambitions. Director Burrs – who also penned the script – manages to create a relatively effective setup and there are no shortcuts taken when it comes to the period-piece aesthetic. However, the zombie elements of the plot are outdated and clichéd, with the Pride & Prejudice side of things, if you will, just isn’t enough of a spin to keep the concept of flesh-eating monsters fresh in any way.
However, that is not to say that the film isn’t engaging, as there is enough action –including a ballroom of zombies being cut up to pieces by the Bennett sisters – and moments humour to keep things relatively exciting throughout. The performances are equally pleasing – Cinderella’s James seems to be a good fit for the gifted zombie-slayer – though the romance between her and Mr. Darcy doesn’t quite register.
It’s fun, it’s silly, but it’s not really sure of itself; Pride and Prejudice and Zombies has a moment or two to call its own, but, it’s mostly a jumble of forgettable ideas and images.