"Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" is exactly what it sounds like. Maybe a little better than it sounds for some and a little worse for others. For most of the population, just the word "zombies" in a title will put them in the seats as the continued stratospheric ratings of "The Walking Dead" keeps proving. What is surprising about "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" is that the film plays the "Pride and Prejudice" side of things fairly straight, mostly to the film's detriment.
The film opens with a delightful pop-up book narration of the alternate history of Britain in the 19th century. The zombie plague has come and most of Britain has become overrun by the undead. The survivors retreated to London and built a giant wall around it and then constructed a massive moat around that. When all of the bridges are destroyed but one, there is only one heavily guarded entry and exit point for London.
Planted right in the middle of this alternate universe is the Bennet family, Colonel Darcy, Bingley and most of the rest of the cast of "Pride and Prejudice." There are five Bennet daughters but instead of being raised as just proper mannered gentry, they have been raised as ladies and warriors. While their mother still expects them to be married off to handsome and rich suitors, their father is more concerned with them surviving the zombie apocalypse.
This is a fun setup, but no fun is had from it. For example, the gentry send their children to be trained in the martial arts. If they want to be seen as rich and powerful, they are trained in Japan, but if the gentry want to be seen as wise, their kids go to China. The Bennet daughters trained in China, studying Shaolin Kung-Fu. This means they are basically ninjas. The film version of "PP&Z" takes itself so seriously that it fails to capitalize on how cool it would be to see five young women in corsets and all the finery busting out some old-school kung-fu on zombies.
The movie does need to be grounded in order for any of the proceedings to have any weight, but going at this story in a much goofier and gorier way would have made for a much less dull and dreary picture. Lily James and Sam Riley are both fine as Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy, but they would have worked equally well in the regular "Pride and Prejudice." A sense of fun would have made the unfollowed threads and plot holes easier to forgive.
One of the main plot points of the film is that the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse will arrive the moment the zombie plague is truly going to wipe out everyone. Early in the film, Elizabeth even sees them, but when it comes time to address this massively epic storyline, the film ends, leaving the audience wishing that they had watched the sequel instead.
There is fun to be had here, with some excellent performances and director Burr Steers doing his best with a modest budget, but it all feels like a missed opportunity. People more excited for the "Pride and Prejudice" side of things might find more to like here than fans of the zombie genre, but neither group will get enough to find this a satisfying meal...on human flesh or otherwise.
"Pride and Prejudice and Zombies"
Dir. Burr Steers
Now playing at Old Mill Stadium 16 & IMAX