In 2004, the Brits cemented Shaun of the Dead as the de facto standard for zombie comedy. There was no way another comedy could come along and compete with such a film, which so brilliantly blended zombie adventure with a sharp and ingenious script. And yet, just a few years later, the Yanks have fought back with a film that nips at Shaun's heels: Zombieland.
Zombieland does away with the requisite introduction that so many zombie films begin with, that realization that the world is crumbling away in a heartbeat. Instead, we're introduced to the main character, Columbus (Jessie Eisenberg), who lives in a world where he hasn't seen another human in months and who adheres to a series of rules for survivals: 1. Cardio (the fatties were the first to go when the zombies struck); 2. Beware of bathrooms (zombies like to attack when you're most vulnerable); 3. Wear your seatbelt (because they could save your life); 4. Double tap (always hit a zombie twice to make sure it's dead). However, his rules are thrown into upheaval when he meets Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), who's seemingly fearless and takes great pleasure in killing the walking undead. The two form an unlikely alliance, one that is strengthened after they are robbed by Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) and her older sister, Wichita (Emma Stone). The four end up traveling around killing zombies, having a good time and visiting a theme park.
The movie from Ruben Fleischer is practically as funny as Shaun of the Dead, though the comedic approach is quite different. Shaun was the inspiration for Zombieland, but it feels nothing like it - it's less a spoof than a comedy set in a very real zombie world. Nevertheless, as with Shaun, the movie is hilarious from beginning to end, offering up plenty of laughs, gore and zombie goodness.
The cast makes the movie, as Harrelson turns in his most enjoyable performance in years. The guy is a riot. Eisenberg and Harrelson play off each other well, each bringing unique and drastically different characters to the table that make the perfect odd couple. In her first more adult-oriented role, Abigail Breslin holds her own quite nicely, but it may be Emma Stone who benefits most from Zombieland. She's smoking hot in this film and oozes real-girl sexuality (and also has good comedic timing); as I read on the IMDB message boards, Megan Fox may have some competition.
Fleischer excels on the excellent script by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick; the movie is solid from beginning to end. The opening credits, which almost plays like a spoof on the Watchmen opening credits (slow motion shots of people getting attacked by zombies), set the scene and the movie just sails from there. Zombie fans will be happy to know that Zombieland, perhaps more than any of its competitors, succeeds at offering unique and gruesome zombie killings, and this in a genre where zombie killing is a way of art. Zombieland revels in its blood splatter, and yet the film still establishes a set of likeable characters.
Zombieland is a gruesome, hilarious and enjoyable zombie comedy. If you're a fan of the genre, this is a must-see.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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