Review: Zombieland

ZombielandWhat’s most admirable about this most recent zombie-crushing comedy is that it knows exactly what zombies are meant for: killing. Funny, creative and most of all low-budget killing. Rookie director Ruben Fleischer and Columbia Pictures capture that essence in the quick but fun “Zombieland,” a post-Zombie infection apocalypse action comedy with a small cast and a whole lot of make-up-covered stunt people.

To be frank, there’s nothing that will blow you away completely in “Zombieland,” it’s just all executed very well and the story satisfies despite cutting short its character arch and development. Action-wise, Fleischer I’d dare say one-ups Zak Snyder on the slow-motion technique. He holds little back when delivering some of the more gruesome zombie kills. He’ll definitely get some potentially lucrative directorial offers with the success of this film, no doubt.

The characters are strong but if anything is lost in the film’s barely even an hour and a half run time, it’s them. Jesse Eisenberg’s neurotic virgin unlikely hero only really learns to grow a pair and Woody Harrelson’s Tallahassee has both the conscious and subconscious desire to find a Twinkie. Although writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick allude to some good ideas about how a character would feel being one of few survivors in a barren and zombie- polluted United States, namely a person who was anti-social to begin with, no relationships in the film come out of the oven beyond medium-rare.

Truthfully, however, the cast is great. Eisenberg is better than Michael Cera at the dorky hero who manages to get the hot chick and Emma Stone is one of the actually talented young “hot chicks” working today. Add Harrelson and Breslin and kudos goes to whoever made the casting decisions. With barely any other characters, a lot falls on them to be real and interesting and as actors, they’re all the types who avoid being shallow.

What makes “Zombieland” likable in the end, however, is creativity. An ending sequence of Harrelson taking out zombies in an amusement park is just good imaginative thinking by Reese and Wernick. Say what you want about zombie-killing scenes, but you don’t feel like you’re watching something you’ve already seen. They understand location is everything in these kinds of films (shopping mall in “Dawn of the Dead” anyone?). A trip to Hollywood to stay in a famous actor’s mansion is another example of outside the box.

“Zombieland” treads the respectable middle ground of delivering quality examples of what it promises and not going too much for glitz and mindless action or the other extreme: shooting way high for excellent character development and drama. The cast and the writers appear capable of that next level, but instead we get more entertainment factor, which is fine considering the entertainment is creative.

Zombie genre fans, comedy fans and quirky/creative film fans will all find something to really enjoy out of “Zombieland,” one of the better entertainment-driven thrills of the year.

4/5 Stars

“Zombieland” (2009)
Directed by: Ruben Fleischer
Written by: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick
Starring: Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin


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