For the sake of not spoiling anything about Ruben Fleischer's Zombieland for anyone that has not yet seen the film, ye be very warned, spoilers are infesting this review. I would hate for someone to even accidentally have something ruined for them just by glazing over these here words...okay, snookums?
I am not inventing the wheel when bringing up the fact that there are disturbing amounts of zombie films that have been released since the zombie "new wave" began earlier in the decade. Many can complain about the over abundance, and I don't blame them at all, but with so many movies being made in one genre...you're bound to have a couple of gems here and there. For as many cruddy zombie films that come out as opposed to how many good ones - it's a very unbalanced ratio, to say the least. Nevertheless, it is a ratio I can accept when amidst all the muck comes films trudging through like 28 Days/Weeks Later, Dawn of the Dead '04, [REC], Shaun of the Dead, and now the newest kid on the undead chopping block, Zombieland.
When I first saw the trailers for Zombieland, I have to admit, I was not all that into it...only appeal for me was Woody Harleson and that's about it. I looked at it as another zombie movie that is going the comedic route, but what are the chances that another zombie comedy is gonna strike that Shaun of the Dead gold? Not very good. Shaun of the Dead is one of the best horror comedies, probably since American Werewolf even - so to be even in the same ballpark, let alone the same city would be a pretty difficult task to achieve. You know what, Zombieland is not only in the same ballpark, it's at bat with runners on the corners, no outs, and a 3-0 count.
Zombieland totally hits it outta the park - It was an absolute blast of a film and there were so many things to enjoy about this movie as a whole. Direction wise and technically, Zombieland is very apt and impressive at times. One of the things that had me skeptical in the trailers was the slo-mo stuff that looked like a practice that I have seen one too many times before. That technique is only used in the films opening credit sequence however, and it's used perfectly. To boot, it's an opening credit sequence that flat out rocked as Metallica's For Whom The Bell Tolls blares during a great zombie carnage montage. It instantly put me in the right mind set to watch Zombieland. I also really liked some of the transitions from scene to scene - very impressive and as with Zombieland in general, a lot of fun.
Zombieland is basic in premise, following only a handful of characters, mainly Jesse Eisenberg who plays Columbus. He also acts as the movies narrator and the concept is sort of inspired by Max Brooks' The Zombie Survival Guide, with Columbus having his own set of rules that he lives by, rules that have kept him alive through this zombie holocaust that has unfolded around him. These rules also serve as the film's driving force for the first act and works in what I would consider a brilliant way to introduce the viewer to this alternate zombie world in a creative and indirect way. I also loved how these rules would pop-up on screen when the actual rule was in use, and thankfully, it is not hokey, nor is it overused.
As Columbus makes his way to his hometown of, Columbus Ohio, he runs into Tallahassee, played by Woody Harrelson. As I mentioned, the only real thing that drew me in about Zombieland originally was Woody Harrelson. I am a huge fan of his work, as most should be, and he is fantastic in this movie. Harrelson as Tallahassee is what drives this film; he takes what is a very good movie and makes it great! He has such perfect comedic timing and his casting as a tough guy with a chip of zombie flesh on his shoulder is pitch perfect. The dialogue is great overall, but some of the Tallahassee stuff was tailor made for Woody, who spits out great one-liners and goes on gut busting tirades about the importance of having a Twinkie sooner than later.
Columbus and Tallahassee team up and go about their ways, till they run into tough as nails, Wichita (Emma Stone) and her tough as thumbtacks, 12 year old sister, Little Rock (Abigail Breslin). Both are a nice addition to the group as they bring a bit of opposition to the boys with the two sisters only wanting to lookout for one another and keep others safely at bay. For Columbus, a self admitted loner who had never even played tonsil hockey with a chick, he is salivating at any opportunity to meet a girl that he can fall for in such a desolate and empty world. It's a rocky relationship between the boys and girls, but that is to be expected when trying to survive the post Apocalypse.
Throughout Zombieland, I laughed out load so many times during this film and Tallahassee was a big reason, another was the surprise special guest, Bill "fucking" Murray! I knew there was some special appearance to be had, and I am sooo thankful that I did not "accidentally" find out whom before seeing Zombieland. The second I realized that the group of survivors are at Murray's house, I got insanely excited! Bill Murray is everything that Tallahassee says he is and to have him show up in Zombieland really added yet another layer fun to this movie. And I cannot express how funny it is when Wichita laughs at Bill Murray's last breath just as he is dying (because everything he does is funny), then apologizes and says, it's so sad! Classic.
A funny Bill Murray is not a stretch and neither is Harrelson for that matter, but it's Jesse Eisenberg that drives the movie and even with a strong performance from the whole cast, if he isn't great, then it would really hurt the film. Fortunately, his is fantastic and while many would be right in him doing a very Michael Cera centric portrayal, he does so very well with a top-notch sense of comedic skill, physically and verbally. He has some hysterical moments and teamed up with Harrelson, the two have great chemistry together and are the perfect "opposites attract" duo.
Even as a zombie comedy, there is of course a message hidden in Zombieland and it is actually handled well. Letting go of your past and not letting nostalgia drive your life, when you are living your life right this very second. All of the characters have a sort of distance from one another, in fear of becoming too attached. Everyone they have been attached to has been killed by, or become, the undead. So why bother going through the pain of getting to know someone in a world that has pretty much ended, a world where they can essentially die at any time. No one uses their name throughout the entire film; save for Bill Murray who is playing himself, but even during a Columbus' flashback, his neighbor is refereed to as 406 in reference to her apartment number. Going nameless actually makes for an endearing emotional scene with Tallahassee, and a sweet ending where Wichita tells Columbus her real name...this was a nice touch seeing the two toughest members of the group let their guard down for once.
Only complaint someone could have would be during the second act, where there isn't much in terms of zombie action. However, the character development was solid and kept me interested in their individual stories. Plus there is so much great humor that you don't even notice the lack of undead presence. Even with the slower paced midsection of Zombieland, there is plenty of walking (or running) dead action in the beginning and especially at the end of the film to make up for it. And the awesome Nightmare City inspired (okay, maybe not) ending...lets just say, there is nothing better than Tallahassee holding on to a moving roller coaster with one hand, while gunning down zombies with an Uzi in his other hand. With the solid box office showing of Zombieland, there are already rumblings of a possible sequel. I hope that this comes to fruition - I really had a fun time with these characters and this story, and it would be great to see what other shenanigans they can get themselves into.