Last year I wrote about Zootopia, and how a good comedy needs a plot that works for a drama. Well, a few days ago I saw “Pride & Prejudice & Zombies“, and I have to say that unfortunately it doesn’t look like this idea works the other way around. Judging by this movie, a drama with a comedy plot will have a hard time trying to get you to fully immerse into the story.
I started watching Pride & Prejudice & Zombies expecting a rather silly comedy, an absurd parody of the famous novel (or probably the 2005 movie adaptation) with maybe a lot of gore and some very dumb dialogs. But to my surprise, the movie was nothing more than what the title said: Pride & Prejudice, with some zombies added. It’s pretty much the same story, with a few minor changes (especially in the third act) but overall a very serious tone. The main characters have almost exactly the same concerns they had in the original story, and there’s hardly anything absurd or funny about them.
Now, think about what this means. Adding a zombie apocalypse to a serious Victorian drama about romance and classism is clearly the setup for a parody. With this plot one can only expect a comedy, and nevertheless the film insists on delivering a dramatic tone. Of course you can deliver a funny line with a dramatic tone, and achieve great comedy (that’s how Leslie Nielsen became famous). But the problem is that in this film most of the lines refer to the actual story of Pride & Prejudice. If the actors deliver the lines in a dramatic tone, and they are talking about a drama, then the movie is obviously a drama (if it moves like a duck…).
The zombie apocalypse adds nothing but a slight change to the scenario, a new stage decoration, if you want to call it that way. And even when we have scenes full of zombies (as it happens in the church that’s full of them), there’s nothing funny about them. As a matter of fact, it looks like the movie really wants you to seriously care for them, and their personal tragedy. But you don’t, because the setup is just too absurd. This is not “28 days later”, or some other intense contemporary drama about how would we react to a zombie virus. This is a romantic novel to which they added zombies and martial arts. It’s simply not possible to actually feel heartfelt empathy towards the protagonists of a parody. They are there for you to laugh, and if they don’t provide funny moments then they are just a failure.
For me the conclusion is clear: comedies need good dramatic plots, but dramas should not have comedic plots. A parody should always be comedy, not a drama, and Pride & Prejudice & Zombies is the evidence of this.