The zombie-comedy is carving a genre all its own, and when the movies are this good, who can argue? Zombieland is a terrific comedy, action picture, and, shockingly, teen romance. Usually this sort of combination makes for a surefire entry into the Razzies, but not so here. Director Ruben Fleischer and his team have crafted one of the most enjoyable black comedies of the year – and it doesn’t overstay its welcome to boot.
The zombie apocalypse has taken place and Earth is literally overrun with said zombies; limping slowly, with their mouths agape. One of the few human survivors is Columbus (Eisenberg), a nerdy-type who quickly reviews the rules of surviving in a world filled with zombies. He’s on his way back to Columbus, Ohio when he meets up with Tallahassee (Harrelson); a no-nonsense gunslinger whose sole purpose left in life is to find a Twinkie. Along the way they meet up with sisters Wichita (Stone) and Little Rock (Breslin). Can they survive?
Despite its title, there really aren’t that many zombies in Zombieland. After a quick start, the film switches gears to more of a character-driven second act. Fortunately, it works on all fronts. The last thing I was expecting to function in this framework was a teen romance, but screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick have put together a gem. The action-packed finale more than delivers on its promise of all-out zombie obliteration.
All of the performances are a lot of fun and pitch-perfect. Most will identify with Jesse Eisenberg’s Columbus, whose nuances and matter-of-factness are both hilarious and endearing. He’s definitely an underdog worth rooting for. Woody Harrelson is, well, Woody Harrelson. The man is just cool, there’s no two ways about it. He has plenty of badass moments to satisfy fans. Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin get the job done as cunning sisters who always have to get their way. Also worthy of mention is a priceless cameo (the participant information is readily available online, but you won’t read it here).
Zombieland delivers in all respects. The toned-down middle section initially had me worried, but some fantastic writing and flawless pacing keeps things chugging along. Fans of Shaun of the Dead and the Evil Dead flicks will find plenty to like here. This is an emerging sub-genre that still has plenty to offer, given the right talent. Here the talent has been assembled and the superb execution should make it a solid Halloween hit.
Studio: Columbia Pictures
Length: 80 Minutes
Rating: R for horror violence/gore and language.
Theatrical Release: October 2, 2009
Directed by: Ruben Fleischer
Written by: Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick.
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin, Amber Heard