Review: Zombieland

5 10 2009

Zombieland

For all their problems, (unquenchable thirst for brains, bad skin, etc.) audiences have always had a soft spot for zombies. The only thing better than the undead is taking them out with a shotgun and fortunately Zombieland has plenty of both. While a number of familiar elements will lend themselves to comparing it to Shaun of the Dead, Ruben Fleischer’s directorial debut manages to stand on its on as a silly but fun Zom-Rom-Com (Zombie Romance Comedy) reminder to enjoy the little things.

We are introduced to our hero Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg channeling Michael Cera) a skinny, nebbish college kid trekking his way through a United States that is now almost entirely taken over by zombies. We aren’t given any backstory or explanation why there is a zombie infestation, and frankly we don’t need one. Far from the social commentary that has taken over the zombie genre, Columbus is just a kid trying to stay alive using his rules for surviving Zombieland, and the movie just wants to have a good time.

Zombieland really takes off when Columbus meets Tallahassee, played by Woody Harrelson, who absolutely knocks his role out of the park. Where Eisenberg’s character is full of virginal angst surviving just because it beats the alternative, Columbus lives for zombie killing (well, that and Twinkies) and has it down to an art form.  The two eventually meet Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) who are trying to get to Pacific Playland, an amusement park that may be 100% zombie free. The screenplay by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick works because at its heart this more of a character-driven road comedy than overplayed post-apocalyptic zombie world struggle for survival.

While there is plenty of gore and blood (particularly in the credit sequence), the film works because of the characters. Harrelson gets all the best lines, but it’s really an ensemble effort as the characters play off of each other, sometimes you even forget there are zombies to worry about at all. In another film that may be a problem, but here the plot is secondary to having a great time in the Hollywood hills. There’s a love story that propels the last third of the film, but it’s really just another excuse to kill more zombies. There’s more to the movie than that, but its impossible to discuss without spoiling some of the best parts of the movie, and that just wouldn’t be fair.

Zombieland is an enjoyable comedy and a lot of fun, but falls short of movies like Shaun of the Dead which redefined the Zombie-comedy. At only 88 minutes, it doesn’t meander and unlike so many comedies that last a half hour longer than they should, leaves on a high note and drives it home. It’s a solid effort and worth seeing but you’re not looking for anything game changing.

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