Zombieland

Aombieland

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Oh, reader, I wish that I could tell that this is a well written review, but I’ve come to realize that in order to have a well written review you have to have talent.  There is no talent here.  No, my friends, you will just have to suffer through this badly written review of Zombieland.

So why am I writing this review?  It’s because of my list rules: Rule number one for reviewing Zombieland?  Bring Your Credit Card.  Movie theaters don’t take bottle caps, pocket fluff or bills with little choo-choo trains on them.  Ebert didn’t bring his wallet.  Poor broke bastard.

As I write the review, it’s not enough to have just to have seen the movie.  You have to get word processing software and learn how to use it.  Which leads me to my second rule, The Double Check.  In those moments when you think everything’s correct, don’t get all stingy with your spell check.  One more proofread and this article could have avoided totally sucking.  Coulda.  Woulda.  Shoulda.

 

Unless you’ve been embedded in an Alpine glacier with nothing but a leather pouch containing mastodon jerky, you’ve probably heard all about Zombieland.  Seriously, if you’ve not seen it then you probably found this site totally by mistake, because there is no way you could be a horror movie fan and have missed it.  It takes all kinds, I guess.  Maybe you were in a coma or something?  I dunno.  I’ll get on with it.

The movie opens with a little narrative exposition by our hero, Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg).  Columbus gets us up to speed fast, explaining that civilization has been shattered by the advent of a zombie plague, and how a skinny, phobic nerd, has managed to survive while those better, faster and stronger than him have ended up as zombiechow.   Being something of a frightened little rabbit before Zombieland, Columbus merely continues to live by his phobia driven rules, which he has memorized and numbered and applies to hilarious effect.  I could get into it, but that would only spoil it.

Columbus informs us that he is heading to Columbus, Ohio.  The characters in Zombieland use their city of origin in place of their real name to keep a little emotional distance from each other.   Yeah, I don’t see how that works either, but it was Tallahassee’s (Woody Harrelson) idea and I’m not going to argue with him.  He’s out of his mind.  Who is Tallahassee?  He’s an angry redneck with post traumatic stress disorder and a heart of gold. Columbus meets him at the conclusion of the exposition.  Tallahassee is the opposite of Columbus.  He’s rude, loud and incautious.  After some early clashiness, our heroes begin to grown on one another.  We now have a buddy road movie with zombies.  I know. That sounds kind of “meh” doesn’t it?

Later they meet up with Love Interest and Little Girl . . . er . . .  rather, Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin), two streetwise (at least in the Hollywood sense, thankfully) sisters. After some initial conflict, all four decide to head to California; home of  Pacific Playland, the zombie-free amusement park.   I know.  That also sounds kind of “meh” doesn’t it?

Happily, Zombieland isn’t “meh.”  It doesn’t even live in the same area code as “meh.”  The name Zombieland implies a fun park, the destination of the main characters, but it also gives you an idea of what the movie is like as an experience.  It’s a big zombie filled amusement park ride, only instead of waiting for an hour and half  to get on a three minute ride, I waited three minutes to watch a ninety minute movie that was probably more fun than most of the rides at Disneyland,  a heck of a lot less expensive too and no kids.  The more I think about it, the better this deal gets.

The story and characters, as I pointed out, are not very original.  I’ll forgive all that because original and well done are not the same thing.   Zombieland is chock full o’ wickedly funny dialogue and situations.  I would cite some examples, but that would ruin it for you if you’ve not yet seen the movie.  All the roles are perfectly cast.  Jesse Eisenberg elicits sympathy in his role as the shy, unlikely hero.  Columbus is the glue that holds the story together and Eisenberg does fine job keeping the understated Columbus the center of attention, which no small task considering that he is paired with the delightful scene chewing Harrelson.  Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin hold their own, again, no small task when sharing the screen with Harrelson and zombies.

This brings us to the zombies.  The zombie effects are great.  To be honest, I really don’t think that I’ve seen better zombies, particularly in opening sequence.  There are a nice variety of zombies including a politician zombie, a frightening horde of little zombie girls in party dresses and an extremely nasty zombie clown.  The kills are all appropriately gruesome without making you want to vomit, though one zombie does barf up copious amounts of blood.  Cool!

There are three things that seem to crop up in any discussion of  Zombieland.  I’ll address them here.  First, Jesse Eisenberg is not Michael Cera.  Suggesting that  the two of them are the same because they portray shy awkward characters is like saying Arnold Schwartzenegger and Sylvester Stallone are the same because they are both wooden and boring.  Okay, maybe Columbus is a bit like all the characters Michael Cera has ever played.  Never mind.

Second, Zombieland is not the “American Shaun of the Dead.”  Shaun of the Dead is what you get when you mix social commentary, biting satire and a genuine, perhaps even a fanboy level of love for the zombie genre.  Zombieland is a clever buddy comedy movie with zombies, probably owing more to the Bob Hope and Bing Crosby Road movies than to George Romero.  What?  You’ve never seen a Bob Hope and Bing Crosby’s  Road to (Fill in the Blank) movies?  They were made a long time ago, back in the day when Bob Hope still was funny.  Ask your grandparents about those, their own parents might have seen them and told them about it.

Lastly, no review of Zombieland can be complete without mentioning the big cameo by a big star.  Almost every review has been really good about not spoiling it.  It’s Bill Murray.

The true test of a good zombie is whether or not it’s fun to watch more than once.  I’ve seen this movie four times since it came out last October.  I will be getting the DVD when it comes out later this month.

Starring:
Jessie Eisenberg
Woody Harrelson
Emma Stone
Abigail Breslin

Screenplay:
Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick

Director:
Ruben Fleischer

Four and a half Vincents out of Five

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