'Pride and Prejudice and Zombies' a fun bit of absurdity

Proving that Jane Austen is easier to take when you mix in the undead, “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” arrives in theaters as a goofy mix of romance and action.

Like “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter,” it is sure to be dismissed by some as a high-concept gimmick, but “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” manages to deliver on its quirkiness – resulting in a film much better than the Lincoln movie.

“Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” is faithful to the Austen novel “Pride and Prejudice” that follows a family in 19th-century England. The family includes Mr. Bennet and Mrs. Bennet and their five daughters – led by the headstrong Elizabeth (Lily James).

With the countryside ravaged by a zombie outbreak, Mr. Bennet has trained his daughters to fight using ancient techniques from the Shaolin temple. Mrs. Bennet wants to find her daughters suitable suitors that will help them move up the social ladder.

Elizabeth would rather fight zombies than wed, until she meets fellow zombie killer Mr. Darcy (Sam Riley).

What makes “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” so clever is that it never takes itself too seriously. Writer/director Burr Steers understands the absurdity of the concept and gleefully uses that to his advantage.

That doesn’t mean Steers makes it full camp. The multi-layered romances and dialogue from Austen are pretty much left intact, which actually makes it more fun. There is a bit of reality grounded in all this silliness.

James seems to be having the most fun of all, destroying zombies in the constraints of a 19th-century corset.

“Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” isn’t perfect by any means. I wanted more zombie craziness, especially in the final act. That final act doesn’t quite hit the mark, leaving the audience a little less satisfied as the final credits roll.

Still, if you are seeing a movie called “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies,” you know what to expect. Thankfully, this film delivers on those expectations.

Also in theaters

Something a little more family oriented is “Kung Fu Panda 3” (B), an engaging enough animated film that is full of life and humor. It provides a little something for children and parents.

In “Kung Fu Panda 3” the lovable panda Po (voiced by Jack Black) meets his long-lost father (voiced by Bryan Cranston) and travels with his dad to a secret village, where he gets to see the life he never knew was possible.

The reunion is interrupted when a warrior named Kai (voiced by J.K. Simmons) sweeps through China, defeating all the kung-fu masters. Kai has his sights set on Po, who could be the key to brandishing ultimate power and controlling the world.

Directors Alessandro Carloni and Jennifer Yuh created a rich, visibly vibrant world with plenty of nods to the martial arts genre, with a look that resembles a Bruce Lee-era film.

Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger’s script is simple but doesn’t play down to its younger audience. The message of family and believing in yourself works well too.

“Kung Fu Panda 3” may not have the same emotional impact as the first two films or the higher-level Pixar productions, but is still a solid bit of family entertainment – a pleasant surprise during the usually slow winter movie season.

“Kung Fu Panda 3” is rated PG for martial arts action and some mild rude humor and is now playing at the Regal Greenwood Mall Stadium 10 and Highland Cinemas in Glasgow.

— To read Micheal Compton’s thoughts on all movies, visit his blog at bgdailynews.com/blogs/reel_to_reel or on Twitter at twitter.com/mcompton428. Email him at mcompton@bgdailynews.com.

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