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Zombieland / *** (R)Posted Thursday, October 15, 2009, at 6:34 PM
Jesse Eisenberg writes the rule book for how to survive the zombie apocalypse in "Zombieland".
Anybody who is familiar with Facebook has seen the quizzes you can take to see how long you'd last in a zombie apocalypse. Well, now they've made a movie to help you improve your score. "Zombieland" is a veritable rulebook on how to survive full-fledged zombie outbreak. In fact, the narrator and star of the story, Columbus, states his many rules for survival throughout the film. The director highlights each rule with title cards and dinging sound effects to let you know when one is being put into practice. Even the characters' names, which are simply their home towns, are one of the rules for survival. They don't use their real names so they won't get attached to each other in case one of them is turned into a zombie and the others must destroy him.
Jesse Eisenberg ("Adventureland"), as Columbus, narrates his thoughts with innocence and charm, which acts as counterpoint to the grizzly images of the zombified populace feasting upon the uninfected. Director Ruben Fleischer places special care in providing the minutest of details to the slow motion scenes of zombie attack that accompany his opening title sequence. With Eisenberg's timid narration and a hard rock soundtrack supplementing those images, it's easy to discern that this isn't going to be you grandma's idea of a zombie flick.
Fleischer has said that the recent British zombie spoof "Shaun of the Dead" inspired him in making this film. Certainly "Zombieland" is an American take on that movie's notions about zombies and how our over stimulated society might react to a zombie outbreak with underwhelming alarm. But "Zombieland" is hardly a spoof of zombie flicks. In fact, it's hardly a zombie flick at all, save for those gruesome opening credits and the final ten minutes. In between credits it is basically a buddy/road trip movie that just happens to have the zombie apocalypse as a backdrop.
Tallahassee, a sort of redneck zombie killing expert played by Woody Harrelson ("Seven Pounds"), joins Columbus on his journey. "Teaming up" is against both their survival codes, but they do so out of convenience and loneliness. The two are soon conned by a couple of sister grifters, Wichita (Emma Stone, "Superbad") and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin, "Little Miss Sunshine"). Since they're sisters, I'm not sure why they have different names. Later the four combine forces to travel to California so Little Rock can find some happy memories at an amusement park the sisters had visited before the zombies.
What the movie amounts to is not much more than some characters that are fun to hang out with, some good conversations about hip pop culture references, like the disappointment of finding an endless supply of snowballs when all you want is a twinkie, and an unexpected cameo by Bill Murray (of "Ghostbusters" fame) playing himself. The zombies really don't even come into play that much beyond giving the leads something to kill every once and a while.
I suppose with Columbus' rules of survival, that's really all a zombieland would be--a place to hang around, shoot the breeze, and take very alert bathroom breaks. Don't forget the "Double Tap", and that's really all there is to it. I suppose that can be fun. It is for this movie.
"Zombieland" is currently playing at Galaxy Cinema in Sedalia.
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Andrew is a professionally trained actor and stage director. He was a reporter for the daily newspaper The Marshall Democrat News. He has been critiquing film since Mr. Lucas released the first of his "Star Wars" prequels in 1999. His reviews can also be seen at his blog site.