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‘Zombieland’ Movie Review

ZombielandWoody Harrelson and Jesse Eisenberg in ‘Zombieland.’

© Columbia Pictures

Shaun of the Dead has been my favorite zombie movie since its release in 2004. It even made
my Top 10 movies of 2004 list alongside Million Dollar Baby, Finding Neverland, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost take refuge in their favorite pub because of course that’s the safest place to be when the undead rule the streets, right? No matter how many times I watch it, it never fails to make me crack up. But sorry Shaun, Zombieland has now replaced you at the top of my zombie movie list.


Zombieland is gross, wickedly sick, and just an all-around bloody good time. Plus, it’s got one of the best cameos ever and great chemistry between the four surviving humans played by Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, and Abigail Breslin.Who would have thought nine months into the year Zombieland would be the film that received the loudest applause of any preview screening I’ve been on hand to witness in 2009? The crowd absolutely loved it. There were quite a few scenes in which the laughter was so loud it covered up jokes (I’ll have to take it in a second time just to hear what I missed). Zombieland cleverly disguises itself in advertisements as a straight-on zombie killing film, but it’s so very much more than that. Sure, it has a fair share of splattering zombies and the opening credit sequence has one of the most incredible scenes of what happens when someone forgets to buckle their seatbelt and gets into a high speed crash. There’s blood and guts and gore enough to satisfy horror fans, but Zombieland‘s actually all about relationships. There’s even a nice little love story tucked into its swiftly-paced 81 minutes.


The Story

A plague spreads at lightning speed, wiping out humans and leaving zombies to run amuck. People who’ve somehow managed to avoid being zombie food are few and far between. Four who’ve survived by adapting various means of combating the undead are a college student/loner/video game nerd (Eisenberg), a take-no-prisoners zombie killer (Harrelson), and sisters with trust issues who can handle guns (Stone and Breslin). 


Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin, and Woody Harrelson in ‘Zombieland.’
© Columbia Pictures

Director Ruben Fleischer and writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick flesh out only the college student’s backstory, and it’s mostly through his eyes that we view this new zombie-filled world. A wuss with assorted health problems, he’s come up with a series of rules for staying alive. His lengthy list includes staying in good cardio shape so he can outrun and outlast the zombies, being wary of restrooms, always remembering to not spare the ammunition and ‘double tap’ all zombies (shoot them twice, just to be sure), and don’t be a hero.Although his relationship with his parents is non-existent, when zombies take over he leaves college and heads back home. And it’s on the road that he meets up with the no-nonsense zombie killer who insists they don’t become attached and therefore won’t use their real names. The college student becomes Columbus and the Twinkie-loving zombie killer becomes Tallahassee. The unlikely team sets off together, and at every available opportunity Tallahassee shows Columbus what it’s like to be a bad-ass zombie destroyer. Even a banjo makes a great weapon against the undead.

So, the two are trucking along when they run into the sisters in a grocery store. After a rocky start in which once again we see that women are smarter than men, Wichita (Stone) and Little Rock (Breslin) join forces – to a point – with the bizarrely well-matched team of Columbus and Tallahassee. The sisters are heading to a Southern California amusement park that’s rumored to be free of zombies, and the men (knowing that’s not true) agree to head that direction.


The Acting

You have to like each of the four central characters or the film’s sunk. Fortunately, it’s nearly impossible not to enjoy what each actor brings to Zombieland. Stone’s Wichita is a tough cookie, and of course Eisenberg’s character (a virgin) falls for her head over heels. It doesn’t hurt that she’s likely the last girl his age left on the planet. Stone’s terrific as the protective older sister, and Breslin’s not given much to do but does a fine job nonetheless.Harrelson is fantastic as Tallahassee, and when we discover why his hatred for zombies runs so deep, it’s a truly emotional moment amid this sea of zombie gore. Harrelson’s delivery and facial expressions are just perfect, making Tallahassee one of his best characters ever.

But it’s Eisenberg who holds this film together. As the geeky, computer game-playing Columbus, Eisenberg’s never been better. Columbus is an interesting character who’s come to terms with this weird new world. He’s like a stumbling puppy trying to keep up with a trained police dog as he tags along with Tallahassee, and Eisenberg’s performance is absolutely endearing.


The Bottom Line

Of course there’s plenty of graphic violence, but it’s mixed with huge laughs and even a few touching moments. The bonding between these four strangers is believable and the chemistry between the leads is spot-on. Zombieland is smartly written, much more so than you assume it’s going to be from the various trailers or clips. And to see what Reese and Wernick did with the surprising cameo by a familiar face alone is worth the price of a ticket. 


Emma Stone, Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg and Abigail Breslin in ‘Zombieland.’
© Columbia Pictures

Zombieland‘s just plain fun. I don’t think I’ve laughed this hard at a film all year. It’s got just about everything you could want from a zombie movie: the effects are first-rate, the action’s spectacular, and the jokes are plentiful. And, really, you don’t have to be a horror fan or into zombies to make Zombieland a place worth visiting.GRADE: A-

Zombieland was directed by Ruben Fleischer and is rated R for zombie horror violence/gore and language.

Theatrical Release Date: October 2, 2009


October 15, 2009 - Posted by | 1

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