Zombieland is one of those little Hollywood jokes that’s going to come at us once in a while. Two guys who never really did anything before and/or a director who never really did anything before, are at a party with a couple of producers and Woody Harrelson. Well, you almost hope that’s how it happened anyway, because the alternative is worse. When we’re lucky, as is pretty much the case here, the result is a bit of fun that isn’t insulting.
What’s oddly striking about Zombieland is just how bizarre the movie rating system really is. The film is rated R for horror violence/gore and language, whatever that means exactly. The rating stands out, because the thing is practically a cartoon. Well, there is language. Fair enough there. But, anything else we look at specifically has to have “technically” put in front of it. Technically that is an instance of shooting someone in the face with a shotgun and watching their head explode. Technically we are watching a zombie eat someone. With Zombieland, this is rather similar to adding up a score for Tom & Jerry. Technically that is a case of pulling the skin off a cat.
I can’t imagine a scene that would scare anyone, though there are things you might love to look at, and when people are getting killed with banjos, something a bit removed from “horror violence/gore” is going on.
The film starts off with Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) running us through a few of his rules for survival. The time is a few months after some virus has turned most everyone into what you are hard-pressed not to call zombies for convenience sake, and Columbus is the only normal person left on Earth… as far as he knows. Anyone not a zombie has been eaten by same, and he has survived by virtue of his long list of irrational fears which have prepared him well now that freakish paranoia is rather a good idea.
He soon meets up with Tallahassee (Harrelson)… see, Tallahassee doesn’t want them to use their real names lest they become attached to each other. (By the way, it is not particularly outlandish to suggest that this is the sort of understanding the average person has when it comes to psychology)
Tallahassee is the big bad zombie-killer to Columbus’ meek zombie-runner-away-fromer, and the pair head out on the highway for no particular reason I can imagine. They soon run into Witchita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin), who dupe them and take all their guns and their truck. Through flashbacks, we learn that Columbus spent his life as a shut in, awkward around people and longing for a family. Witchita and Little Rock have been hustlers for quite a while, only trusting each other, and always on the run. Zombieland has not changed life for them all that much.
The four reconnect and head for California, because Little Rock wants to go to an amusement park. Really, one place is as good as another, so there they go. They take breaks to smash empty stores, rummage for food, and kill a few zombies, all the while each is learning in their own way that they probably have to get along. It’s a fun little play on the characters that Wichita can deal with not trusting anyone when there are millions of people to not trust, but when not trusting anyone means one individual… well, that’s harder to do. Columbus can live with himself as the person unable to talk to a girl, because they’re everywhere and there will be other chances, but what if there are no other girls, or other chances?
It’s a somewhat interesting spin on what we’re doing in a zombie flick, and because the thing is so devoid of seriousness, it works pretty well. It never manages funny exactly, but it’s a lot of fun, and for a little nonsense feature to kill your Friday night, this one is rather worth it. It’s really laying things out pretty fairly, because if there’s a chance you’ll see a movie called Zombieland, you’re not only exceedingly likely to enjoy yourself, it will probably have a little more to it than you expect.
Perhaps the best praise I can give Zombieland is that when it was over I was really quite surprised I had been sitting there that long. Not likely to be quoted in big letters on the DVD, I suppose, but it is a goofy-by-design zombie movie, and you’re going to have to take what you can get.
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