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Movie Night – 'Pride, Prejudice and Zombies' offers surprising entertainment (Feb. 17, 2016 issue)

It’s doubtful that anyone other than author Seth Grahame-Smith ever gave any thought to combining a piece of classic romantic English literature with a group of bloodthirsty, flesh-eating zombies. But “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies,” based on the book of the same name, is actually entertaining.
The general story of “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” is known to most people. The five Bennet sisters are coming of age in 19th century England are trying to cope with the pressure (mostly from their mother) of finding a suitable husband. According to their mother, and most of respectable society, that means a wealthy husband. Jane (Bella Heathcote) is considered to be the fairest of the sisters while Elizabeth (Lily James) has the most spunk and is definitely the most interesting.
It all sounds pretty tame until you throw in the zombie apocalypse. The zombie virus spread like the plague before the Bennet sisters were born and cast an ominous pall over Victorian England for decades. All wealthy families sent their children abroad to be trained in the martial arts to help combat the zombie scourge. While most wealthy families sent their children to Japan, Mr. Bennet (Charles Dance) believed the wiser course was to send his daughters to China. By the time they returned to England as young women they were deadly in combat.
A wealthy gentleman by the name of Mr. Bingley (Douglas Booth) purchases a nearby estate and becomes smitten with Jane the moment he sees her at a ball. Colonel Darcy (Sam Riley) is Bingley’s best friend and appears to develop an equally powerful instant dislike for Elizabeth, although the exact opposite is true. Colonel Darcy is part of the army tasked with destroying all zombies.
The complicated facets of courtship in Victorian England are intertwined with the ever-present danger presented by the deadly and growing zombie army that destroys more and more of England each day. The Bennet sisters along with Bingley and Darcy must navigate the minefield of courtship while at the same time wage battle against the zombie hordes. It’s difficult to determine which is more treacherous.
Having never read “Pride and Prejudice” it’s difficult for me to determine how much of the original story is retained for “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.” The plot of an alternate history imagined through altering a beloved work of fiction in the most unexpected of ways produced one of the most imaginative movies in recent history.
I doubt Jane Austen had zombies, or any other creatures, in mind when she wrote “Pride and Prejudice.” And yet it is the absurdity of injecting zombies into the mix that changes the story enough to make it more vibrant and interesting for today’s moviegoers.
One positive aspect of the film is the strong female characters that are the Bennet sisters. The sisters are trained in the deadly arts so that they don’t have to rely on a man for their protection, which is particularly helpful given the fact that there are zombies wandering around the English countryside. As Mr. Bennet puts it, his daughters are trained for combat, not for the kitchen. The sisters may want to find a good man to share their lives with, but they don’t need a man to protect themselves.
“Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” gets credit for originality. It blends Victorian romance, zombies, and quite of a bit of humor to produce a surprisingly entertaining film. It’s certainly not going to win any Academy Awards, but it’s worth a trip to the theater if you’re looking for something different.
Grade: B+
Rated PG-13 for zombie violence and action, and brief suggestive material.