Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Movie Review: Zombieland

I think I enjoyed this at an "A" level but could only justify a "B" rating...so I split the difference. Things I couldn't get in the review for wordcount reasons: (1) Avoid the cameo spoiler if you can. It's soooooo gooood if you don't know it's coming. (2) It's really not a true horror movie. Sure, there's a few boogity-boogity-boo moments and quite a bit of vomited blood and splatter, but it's really just funny. My wife saw it and didn't have zombie nightmares, and having zombie nightmares is pretty much what she does. Anyway, here's the review:

Mutilation Vacation
Zombieland proves road trips are more fun with corpses

How’s this for a comparison? If Sean of the Dead is the Citizen Kane of horror comedy, Zombieland is the genre’s Singin’ in the Rain. Mind blowing, right? Director Ruben Fleischer and writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick have made the first toe-tappingly cheerful, downright optimistic film about the downfall of humanity due to cannibalistic carnage. To put it another way, if you’ve ever had this much fun with dead bodies before, you’re probably in jail.

Realizing that audiences speak fluent apocalypse and no longer need a primer on the ins and outs of zombies, Reese and Wernick begin well after the evil outbreak. A snarky, self-aware voiceover from Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), our Michael Cera–esque hero, describes how he’s used his neuroses to stay alive. This leads to one of the most gorgeous, disgusting opening sequences, filled with well-composed cinematography and copious amounts of bloody vomit.

Columbus joins up with Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), a character destined to be etched into cult status quicker than you can say Bruce Campbell, and, shortly thereafter, the duo meets up with (and gets conned by) Witchita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin). The characters use the name of destinations to avoid giving away their real identities, and thus a piece of themselves, to strangers they aren’t quite sure they won’t have to slaughter. Once united, the gang meanders, hopping vehicles and chopping up wayward reanimated corpses; you know, just like all family vacations.

Although ostensibly a horror film, the scariest thing about Zombieland is that it’s likely going to make Woody Harrelson famous again. His violent, one-liner spouting redneck in search of a Twinkie is a perfect foil for the razor-tongued, Woody Allen–light Eisenberg, and the combination coyly animates the nuanced dialogue and clever gags rife in the script. As for the females, Breslin is fine in a thankless role, whereas Stone sizzles with smoky eyes and smoldering voice subtly demanding she become the next big thing.

What’s problematic is mostly expected: The bad-ass girls become beautiful bait by the end, and the now generic feel of all things zombie permeates. Also, the film was pitched as a television show, so the final moments feel more like a pilot than a true cinematic denouement. That said, the film’s overtly reiterates Columbus’s rule about enjoying small things for a reason: as a hope-filled horror comedy, Zombieland is a terribly enjoyable small thing.

Grade – B+

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