Author Seth Grahame-Smith’s bestselling 2009 mashup of Jane Austen’s popular novel of English upper crust refinement and zombies is finally brought to the big screen in Burr Steer’s ‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.’ Stuck in “developmental hell” for nearly seven years since it was picked up initially, P&P&Z certainly had more than its fair share of bumps and detours along the long and winding road to fruition, with Natalie Portman reportedly dropping out (though she is retained as one of the producers) and two previous directors ditching the project, including celebrated ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ and ‘American Hustle’ director David O. Russell.
It should come as no surprise, then, that P&P&Z is essentially a middling effort which settled for being just average, from its cast of relatively unknown stars led by Lily James (‘Cinderella’) to its equally unheard-of director. Although the adapted screenplay stayed more‑or‑less true to Grahame-Smith’s novel, I find that the movie utterly lacked the book’s satirical humor and the acting to be rather pedestrian, be it Lily James’ spiritless heroine Elizabeth Bennet or Sam Riley’s less-than-dashing Mr. Darcy. The fast (you heard right) zombies are mere window dressing and at no point in the movie does one feel that any of the characters are in any sort of life‑threatening peril or predicament. And despite its message of female empowerment with the Bennet sisters, the movie comes across as elitist in its portrayal of the wealthy gentry as heroes and relegating the common peasantry to being faceless (quite literally in some cases) zombies.
Much like its predecessor, ‘Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter,’ P&P&Z’s action scenes are limp and flat, perhaps a victim of its modest budget and family-friendly PG-13 rating. Alas, even such compromises did not help P&P&Z achieve its low expectations at the box office, raking in a paltry $5.3 million and placing sixth domestically in its opening weekend. For a period “comedy horror” piece that turned out to be neither funny nor scary, how can one expect otherwise?