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Better dead than wed

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, the screen adaptation of Seth Grahame-Smith’s popular 2009 novel, is, as the title implies, a riff on Jane Austen’s 19th century novel Pride and Prejudice, inarguably among Austen’s most beloved works – with zombies thrown in for measure, although not necessarily good measure.

The Austen flavor is present. Lily James, veteran of “Downton Abbey” and the star of Disney’s live-action Cinderella last year, plays the eponymous heroine Elizabeth Bennet. Sam Riley, whose gruff delivery recalls veteran British actor David Warner, is the handsome and brooding Mr. Darcy – sometimes referred to as “Col. Darcy,” being that he’s an officer in the militia charged with ferreting out those undead fiends, evidently a holdover from the Black Plague that swept Europe some time before.

There are some laughs to be had watching Elizabeth and her equally prim and proper sisters (Bella Heathcote, Suki Waterhouse, Ellie Bamber and Millie Brady) assembling firearms, concealing knives and swords under their petticoats, then brandishing them — in slow-motion, of course — during their periodic clashes with the undead, and it’s fun to discern the many major characters, chunks of dialogue, and entire situations taken from Austen’s timeless classic. (She retained a credit on the comic book, as well she should.)

The handsome cast, which includes Charles Dance, Lena Headey, Jack Huston, Douglas Booth and Sally Phillips (whose Mrs. Bennett is more concerned with marrying off her daughters than this zombie nonsense), performs with zeal, treating the material with an amusing (and bemused) mock gravity. The period design and special effects are nicely realized, although the film squeaks by with a PG-13 rating. (Don’t be surprised if an unrated version is released on home-video.)

The novelty, however, wears very thin by the third act, with several pivotal characters all but ignored or discarded, as the film rushes – or gallops, as the case may be – toward a truly stupid ending designed for no other reason than to “promise” a sequel, at which point the saying “one and done” comes to mind – and stays there. !

LOG ONTO YesWeekly.com — click on the “Flicks” section.

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