Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Directed by:  Burr Steers

Starring: Lily James, Sam Riley, Charles Dance, Lena Headey, and Suki Waterhouse

A week ago, I was forced to review Fifty Shades of Black.  Right on the heels of viewing that debacle, I was assigned to review Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.  I assumed that I was being punished by the movie gods for some unknown sin.  Perhaps I was too lenient on Magic Mike XXL?  Or maybe this was penance because I haven’t seen Bridge of Spies yet?  I was definitely feeling cursed.  Much to my surprise, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is actually a fun romp.  Based on a novel of the same name written by Seth Grahame-Smith, the film parodies Jane Austen’s classic tale in a mostly enjoyable fashion.  It could be that I am excited about The Walking Dead’s imminent return, but I actually was entertained by Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.   

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
takes place in 19th century England.  However, in this alternate reality, zombies have become an increasing threat.  London is walled off and heavily guarded.  Military officials closely monitor any threat of outbreaks and swarm in to kill anyone potentially infected.  Many citizens have responded by training in martial arts.  Wealthy families send their sons and daughters to Japan for training, and other families send their children to China.

Elizabeth Bennet (Lily James) and her four sisters Jane (Bella Heathcote), Lydia (Ellie Bamber), Mary (Millie Brady) and Kitty (Suki Waterhouse) studied in China.  Mr. Bennet (Charles Dance) has ensured that his daughters are able to defend themselves. Their mother, Mrs. Bennet (Sally Phillips), however, is more concerned about her daughters finding wealthy suitors to provide for them financially when their father passes away.  Even in a zombie apocalypse, a girl needs to find a husband.

Mrs. Bennet is thrilled that a wealthy family, the Bingleys, has recently moved into town.  She hopes that young Mr. Bingley will fancy one of her daughters.  She parades them in front of Mr. Bingley and Jane Bennet immediately catches his eye.  Meanwhile, Colonel Darcy, a cold military leader in attendance at the party, immediately clashes with Elizabeth Bennet.  Their gathering is interrupted when zombies descend and start attacking revelers.  The Bennet sisters and Colonel Darcy spring into action and thrash the undead.  However, the attack is a signal that the zombies are growing stronger and a real war is imminent.  As the Bennet sisters face increasing danger, they must also navigate through the complexities of polite British society.

Jane Austen continues to live on as her 1813 novel is constantly reimagined.  From Bridget Jones’ Diary to Pride and Prejudice, somehow Austen’s subject matter still resonates.  Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is not a serious film, but it is yet another take on Austen’s tale of spinsters, morality, class and womanhood.  In the movie, even though zombies are gnawing on everything moving, society maintains its caste system and prejudices.  What makes the film fun is that the gender roles and norms seem unbelievably ridiculous. Both men and women need the skills of a warrior.  Becoming a refined lady of leisure and gentle breeding is less practical than learning how to fight.  Yet, the female characters are still expected to jockey for male suitors. The film’s absurd premise is well suited to mock societal norms.

Both Lily James and Sam Riley deliver solid performances.  James plays the role of a brash, strong-willed young woman.  Riley is reminiscent of a young Colin Firth—which is perfect given Firth’s ties to Pride and Prejudice films.  I would be remiss in not remarking on the Game of Thrones reunion in the film.  It was quite a delight to see Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) and Tywin Lannister (Dance) reunited onscreen, albeit briefly.

The film is not without its faults.  Pride and Prejudice and Zombies runs too long and struggles to maintain consistent pacing throughout.  Moreover, the film actually focuses a little too much on English society and not enough on the walking dead.  Writer and director Burr Steers tries to do too much and may lose some of his audience before the film reaches its climax. 

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
earns a 0.06%.  It is not a great film, but it is surprisingly entertaining.