Saturday, March 13, 2010


I was talking with a friend at work about this movie and he said "There's nothing wrong with Zombieland."  I am going to have to wholeheartedly agree with that.  Do you need to know anything more than that?  Well, I guess I'm forcing my opinion out into the internet ether by having a blog, so I will go on, regardless.

Zombieland is set in the near future, when the inevitable zombie apocalypse has finally struck.  This movie is different from most zombie flicks (excepting, of course, George Romero sequels) because we don't watch the zombies rise up.  Zombies are a fact of life, and you have to "nut up or shut up," in the words of Woody Harrelson's character.  While the plot doesn't do anything to surprise you, it doesn't let you down either.  Basically, it's about zombies.  And awkward young love.  And zombies.  And family.  But especially zombies.

Jesse Eisenberg does a good job as the awkward Point of View character for the film.  His character has many rules for survival in the post-zombie world, and they appear on-screen whenever appropriate, serving both as reminders and subtle jokes along the way.  When you have an awkward lead male, he is obviously going to fall in love with any girl close to his age, so Emma Stone plays the part of the bad girl that he has a hell of a time trying to impress.  Not that Emma has a lot of other non-zombies to choose from, but even after the apocalypse, it's still ladies' choice.  Abigail Breslin plays Emma's little sister with her usual competence and Woody Harrelson plays a zombie-stomping bad-ass.

From those descriptions, I know it's hard to figure out which is my favorite character, but it's Harrelson.  Generally overlooked for his work (possibly because people remember The Cowboy Way and Money Train), Harrelson is always good in his movies, and he performs with relish here.  Yes, the script has a lot of good dialogue, but Harrelson's character could have been cartoon-ish in the hands of a lesser actor.  Here, he's bigger than life and is truly getting the most out of living in a world with zombies.  Jesse Eisenberg, who is sometimes unjustly seen as a low-rent Michael Cera, plays his usual awkward character here, but he has come a long way since Roger Dodger because he now has timing and delivery down pat.  I'm also enjoying the development of Abigail Breslin; while she doesn't have a whole lot to work with here, nothing seems forced.  Really, her character serves as a plot device to justify the cast traveling to a Disney-esque theme park, but on the rare occasions where Breslin is called upon to personify childish innocence and/or ignorance (the fact that her character didn't know who Bill Murray made me feel sooooo old), she delivers.  Plus, she just seems like a lot more fun than Dakota Fanning, the only other credible actress in their age group.  Emma Stone does a decent job, too, hitting all the right notes, but I didn't feel that her performance was anything special.

None of this does justice to the joy that is Zombieland, because I don't want to spoil the many small moments that make this fun and funny.  There are a number of recurring character moments that really pay off, whether it be the one food on Earth that Woody Harrelson is craving, or the thing that scares Jesse Eisenberg the most.  Here's a hint to that last one:
 Come on!  That is so awesome!  This movie has a cameo by Bill Murray that is easily the best bit part I have seen in years.  And you'll notice that I haven't even mentioned the inevitable violence of a zombie movie.  Well, there are a lot of good zombie kills, too.  This movie really has everything: violence, gore, humor (not stupid or gross humor...real humor), romance, emotional arcs for the characters, and Bill Murray being awesome.  Yes, you can see the plot twists coming a mile away, but that's not always a bad thing in a comedy.  Comedy is about setting up expectations and then meeting them...or not meeting them in a fun way.  This film could have been a Shaun of the Dead knock-off, but it instead comes across as a fun adaptation of Max Brooks' Zombie Survival Guide.  I can't believe that this is essentially Ruben Fleischer's first directorial work.  And I mean that in the best possible way.

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