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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Zombieland is a worthy addition to the zom com genre

Posted By on Wed, Sep 30, 2009 at 10:59 AM

The world has been devastated by a plague that turns the infected into flesh-eating killing machines. Among the few survivors are uber-wuss Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg, in Michael Cera-lite mode), who’s lucky this is a comedy and not a horror movie or he would have been dead before the opening credits. This is a guy who tries to fight off a zombie attack with a bag of cotton balls. But while he may not be much good at fighting, Columbus proves quite handy for providing flashbacks, relating amusing plot detours like the “zombie kill of the week” and, most importantly, spelling out “the rules” of Zombieland.

Helping to keep Columbus among the living is the wise cracking bad-ass Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), whose only goal other than survival is to find a Twinkie. He’s vulgar, funny and selfish on the outside, but underneath that rough exterior beats the heart of a hero. He’s like the Han Solo of zombie movies. Harrelson hasn’t had a starring role in a mainstream movie like this for a while, but he clearly still has his movie star chops. His performance here is every bit as iconic as his Larry Flynt, Roy Munson or Mickey Knox. In short, he owns this movie.

Tallahassee and Columbus eventually meet up with Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin). The girls were pulling cons together before the plague hit, a skill that serves them well in the “everyone for themselves” world of Zombieland. After overcoming some trust issues, the four head for California hoping to reach an amusement park the girls believe is zombie-free. Not likely, but at least there might be Twinkies.

It’s not as over the top as Peter Jackson’s Dead/Alive or as hilarious as Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead, but Zombieland nonetheless manages to carve out its own enjoyable little niche in the zom com genre. Chances are it’ll be an even bigger niche than either of those films, since without the excessive gore and references to other movies, Zombieland works as well for mainstream audiences as it does for the zombie faithful. It also boasts a secret weapon: a surprise extended cameo from a comedy legend who shall remain nameless here, although if you want to spoil the surprise you can look it up on IMDB. The cameo is perhaps dragged out a bit too long, but it provides a lot of laughs. For that matter, so does the rest of Zombieland. ***

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