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Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017

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".
Columbia Pictures presents a film directed by Ruben Fleischer. Written by Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick. Running time: 80 min. Rated R (for horror violence/gore and language).

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.

Catch up on this year's Horrorfest at A Penny in the Well with a special Halloween candy themed star rating scale.

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Andrew, though I have not yet seen the movie, I might be able to present a possible solution to the problem of Wichita and Little Rock not having the same name, despite being sisters.

I myself have four younger siblings, and you can clearly see the problem with all five of us introducing ourselves as "Marshall" if every there was a zombie apocalypse. What we would probably do is pick up the name of the town we were born in (when not the current one we live in) or some other town that has significance to us. In that case, my brother and I would both be "Kansas City" (one probably referred to as "KC" and the other the full city name) and my sisters would be Warsaw, Sedalia and Marshall.

So, in the case of Wichita and Little Rock, it could be that each was born in the respective city, or it could even be that they were both from one city, but one of their parents was originally from the other city, providing a link of that sort.

Either way, not assuming an identical name would prevent an extra amount of confusion added to the chaos the zombies themselves present. Perhaps this could have been explained in the movie itself, but one thing I've noticed about all zombie movies is you have to draw many conclusions based on scanty facts and a make quite a few assumptions based on no facts just to make minimal sense of it all. But that's half the fun, right?

Anyway, I can't wait to see this newest zombie flick, and maybe I'll have a few more comments when I do!

-- Posted by Jacob Hatfield on Fri, Oct 16, 2009, at 9:49 AM

At first I thought the whole "sisters" claim was part of their original con on Columbus and Tallahassee, but then they had the happy childhood memories about the amusement park, so I realized they really were sisters. Maybe the names were explained at one point, just not where I expected, because If I were Columbus, the name thing would've been my first question after the girls introduced themselves.

I believe the real explanation is that the Abigail Breslin character had to have the word 'little' in her name when the writers were shopping the script around, so producers would understand she was a child and would therefore provide savings in the film's budget. But then they went and hired Abigail Breslin, so... maybe not.

-- Posted by ydnasllew on Fri, Oct 16, 2009, at 6:50 PM

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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.
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