26
Oct
09

Movie Review: Zombieland

zombieland_ver2

 

Call it an American “Shaun of the Dead.”

Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin, and Bill Murray. Directed by Ruben Fleischer

Sometimes going into a movie with low expectations is the best way to see it. I walked in hating the idea of the movie and walked out loving it.

Welcome to the United States of Zombieland; what’s left after a virus begins turning people into zombies (nothing new there). The narrator of this tale is “Columbus” (Eisenberg), an Austin college student from Ohio. He’s your standard post-Generation X nebbish, sensitive, shut-in “World of Warcraft”-playing collegiate that didn’t find out about the virus until his next door neighbor in 406 (Amber Heard) is bitten by a homeless guy and he offers a sympathetic shoulder. Unfortunately when he wakes she doesn’t want just his shoulder to cry on.

After the incident he ventures out into the world creating a list of rules as he goes along (up to 31 when the movie opens). The Rules for dealing with zombies include Cardio (being able to out run them), Double Tap (shooting the zombie twice, at least once in the head), Don’t Be a Hero, Check the Back Seat, Beware of Bathrooms, etc. It’s by these rules that Columbus survives.

On a highway with cars and trucks strewn everywhere (and a few burnt to a crisp) he meets Tallahassee (Harrelson), a shoot-from-the-hip zombie-killing badass. Tallahassee is 180 degrees different than Columbus: he’s brazen, redneck, macho, and says exactly what he thinks. His mission: killing zombies and the quixotic quest for Twinkies. His advice leads to Rule 32: Enjoy the little things.

This pair begin heading east and a stop at a grocery store leads to meeting sisters Wichita (Stone) and Little Rock (Breslin). Columbus and Tallahassee soon find that Wichita and Little Rock are more than just sisters; they’re con artists. This is found out multiple times after being taken for their weapons and vehicles (which they lose twice). Wichita and Little Rock are on a mission: Pacific Playland, an amusement park which supposedly has no zombies.

Before going in I wasn’t a big fan of zombie movies. I’m as done with zombies as I am with vampires. Yes, I loved “Shaun of the Dead. Who, except my brother, didn’t? I thought “28 Days Later,” was great. That’s it. I don’t fawn over every zombie survival guide or movie that’s released. This movie is something different.

The movie keeps a consistency: cynical narration from Columbus. We see and hear his internal thoughts, fears, wants, and desires. He thinks tough but can’t always pull it off. Add to that creative CG titling that brings to mind David Fincher movie intros. The initial opening sequence that shows the progression of zombies in the world and feels more than inspired from the intro to “Watchmen.” In fact Fleischer does a great job in doing what he wants with the zombie genre without making you feel like “we’ve seen this all before.” The world of “Zombieland” becomes a backdrop for a road movie where the characters are looking for illusory security.

Paying homage to “Watchmen”/David Finch intros is the most direct homage the movie pays to any other film. There is a scene at Pacific Playland where Tallahassee fortifies himself inside one of the booths where you throw a ball in the futile attempt to win a giant plush animal prize. Wearing a snakeskin jacket he blasts away at the oncoming zombies with a pair of gold-plated 9mms (“Face/Off” anyone?) He ejects the empty clips and reloads by slamming the cartridges standing on the table into the them (“Tomb Raider”-ish?) Speaking of video games the coup de grace scene where all parties involved have to defend themselves against the gigantic group of zombies reminded me of the days when I played “Doom,” while blasting hard rock music in the background. I’m just saying…

Is it gory? Yes. It’s also funny, witty, cynical, brazen, redneck, and a little romantic. Harrelson definitely carries the movie, but the cast looks like they were having film filming it. Eisenberg is good, but Michael Cera could’ve done just as well. Emma Stone works, and I’m becoming really impressed with Abigail Breslin; she’s more than just the kid you remember from “Little Miss Sunshine.”

So I’ve been saving Bill Murray for last. The group make it into Hollywood and after stealing a Map of the Stars they head to the home of the actor Tallahassee considers the top of the A-list: Bill Murray. Murray’s huge, lavish mansion is a little more than self-indulgent with various paintings of Murray. They almost mistake Murray for a zombie because he wears makeup to look like one (“It’s easier to blend in as a zombie.”) After an altercation Little Rock asks if he has any regrets to which he responds: “’Garfield,’ maybe.”

That’s as much as I’ll say about that. If this review can’t convince you to go see it, I don’t know what will.

My grade: A

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