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Zombieland (2009) – Movie Review

Zombieland poster

Written by: Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick
Directed by: Ruben Fleischer
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin

My Advice: Matinee

So, you know, zombie apocalypse. Not just zombie apocalypse, though–fast zombie apocalypse. The world, as you might imagine, goes to hell in a handicart. Shuffling amongst the ashes is our protagonist, known only as “Columbus” (Eisenberg). At first glance, he seems like an unlikely survivor. Ken Foree’s Peter or Tom Savini’s Blades he’s definitely not. But he does have a ever-growing series of rules (shades of Max Brooks) that he adheres to. Although sometimes he bends them, like when throws in with “Tallahassee” (Harrelson), a borderline sociopath with a temper and a serious world-shattering hankering for Twinkies. This is the story of how anybody manages to survive in what Columbus refers to as “Zombieland.”

In a world where Shaun of the Dead has already come and gone–or rather, come and lingered, since it’s that damn good–at first glance, the idea of another zombie comedy might be greeted with apprehension. And well, this one was. But Shaun, the British entry into this small sub-sub-genre was a well-written blend of comedy and pathos that was also a love letter to George Romero, Zombieland is, in essence, Shaun‘s clumsy, goofy but fun-as-hell American cousin.

[ad#longpost]In fact, the film honestly shouldn’t work as well as it does. For one thing, it’s littered with on-screen references to Columbus’ rules, a gag that honestly should get old in a hurry. It doesn’t. Ever. And another thing: for a zombie film, especially one with the zed-word in the title, there’s relatively little in the way of zombie action going on. This is not necessarily a detriment, because like all good zombie movies it understands that it’s about people and how they interact (or fail to interact) instead of a focus on headshots. It’s just with this film it’s very obvious how this all works. Although when there is zombie action, it’s as fun as you might imagine it being. And sure, the script stretches realistic credibility with some of the characters’ actions…but it’s kinda hard to give a damn, you know?

Part of the reason you can’t get upset with the film is the cast. Jesse Eisenberg is the perfect choice to play the unlikely Columbus, utterly believable as the nerd survivor. He’s the inheritor of the sci-fi club protagonists in Dance of the Dead. And Woody Harrelson–an underrated screen presence–absolutely owns the role of Tallahassee, the redneck Wolverine of the post-apocalyptic zombie world. He’s simply the best there is at what he does. His swaggering confidence is perfect. Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin are on board as well, playing roles that could have easily been two-dimensional and boring, but are very well written–and they both step up accordingly. And a fantastic cameo’s bit can be seen coming from a mile away, but again, it’s sort of hard to care, since it’s so much fun.

What you get with Zombieland isn’t anything that is going to revolutionize the zombie genre, but honestly, the trailer makes it quite clear that’s not what its game is. If you’re willing to show up and play its game and be entertained (with a couple small bits of pathos for flavor), then I think you’re going to be pleased. Fans of the genre should catch a matinee. Everybody else will be fine waiting till they can catch it at home. And, even more frightening than the film, I think an equally well-written sequel would be welcome. Hell, I think these characters would work in a television series. I know, scary, right?

1 comment

  • One of the most entertaining films I’ve seen in a while, It had me rolling nearly the whole time.