Zombies are about damn near everywhere. Sure, vampires have seemingly taken over as the go-to trendy monster, but the re-emergence that zombies have been experiencing in pop culture for the last few years is larger, more widespread and hitting a much bigger demographic than the vamps could possibly handle. My guess is that zombies are in unlimited supply since people die everyday. The one thing we haven’t had from mainstream zombie fetishism is the road-trip comedy. Well, Zombieland definitely fills that void as well as the one necessitating zombie action-movies.
Originally planned as a TV show, Zombieland introduces us to four characters trying to survive the zombified wasteland that the USA has become. After an amazing credits sequence, Jesse Eisenberg is the first character you are introduced to. Through a little narrating he explains how he has setup a bunch of rules for himself on how to survive the new world. Cardio is important because you need to be able to run away from these mindless eaters. As the film states, “the fat ones were first to go.” Putting on your seatbelt is also equally important. That one is illustrated for you quite well, so I won’t spoil it. In fact, as you watch you’ll see many examples of the rules being pointed out to you, even when the characters aren’t talking or narrating. This film wants to be watched by an audience. It isn’t just a recording of events taken place, and it knows that.
Eventually Jesse meets Woody Harrelson and the two become an unlikely partnership at odds with the world, and sometimes each other. Woody insists that they don’t reveal their names so that they don’t get too attached. You wouldn’t want to know the first name of a zombie you have to kill, I guess. So Woody’s character goes by Tallahassee and Jesse is now Columbus, named after their places of origin. Columbus is on a journey to find his family while Tallahassee is on a hunt to find Twinkies. When you think about it you realize that in a world so shitty it only makes sense to try to find yourself some comfort in a childhood snack.
Along the way they come across Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) who wind up teaming up with them… sort of. These sisters had an interesting life before the world went walking dead and seem to have no plans of stopping. The use their unique skills on Columbus and Tallahassee and manage to screw them out of their truck and weapons, multiple times. Of course this only draws Columbus into being head-over-heels for Wichita even more. After a few hiccups they meet up again and decide to stick together. They learn to live and love in world full of shitty circumstances and make the best of it. “You have to enjoy the little things.”
As the film rolls along there are tons of of hilarious situations dealing with the things you would take for granted in the normal world. Bathroom breaks have become one of the most dangerous events. No one is more vulnerable than when they are popping a squat on the toilet. Fresh food is almost nowhere to be found, but at least there is tons of parking. During their travels they decide to make a pit-stop to look at a celebrity’s home and in turn gives us one of the best cameos in ages. I’m not going to spoil it, but lets just say that the supernatural and Twinkies have more relevance with him than anyone else in the movie.
Peppered in between the jokes and heartfelt moments are tons of zombie killing. Creative action sequences and funny ways to take out the flesh-eaters round out the rest of the film, with an awesome set-piece at the end. If Zombieland sounds like it should be a theme park to you then you’ll be more than pleased with the last portion of the film. For a first time director, Ruben Fleischer sure knew what he was doing with both the action and the comedy. The delivery of each joke and shotgun blast to the head are handled with equal skill, and when I met him on the set of the film I could see how badly he really wanted this film to please audiences.
Congrats are in order for Ruben. The crowd I saw this with was laughing and cheering at all the right moments and seemed to be loving the whole thing. Anyone who dismissed this as another Shaun of the Dead were silenced quickly. Both are fun zombie comedies but they are very different and achieve separate things. While you do care for the characters you meet in this movie, you don’t have as much as an attachment to them as you could. Maybe that was intentional, going with the philosophies of a post-zombie world. Still, the whole film is tons of fun and there are great moments between all the actors involved. The action is damn good and they never shy away from a good splatter. I’d more than lineup to see a Zombieland 2. Maybe have them figure out how to work an airplane and travel so they can title the film Zombieworld.
Movie Grade: A-