'Zombieland' a fun ride
To be completely honest, I'm tired of zombie movies. Ever since 28 Days Later re-invented the genre in 2002, the Zombie Renaissance has been moving forward at full speed.
Sometimes it works, like the Dawn of the Dead remake and Shaun of the Dead, but stinkers like the Resident Evil trilogy and the general glut of zombie action has left me exhausted.
With that said, Zombieland is a breath of fresh air in the genre, an entertaining adventure comedy with thrills and big laughs. It helped that it doesn't play like a zombie film, which usually deals with groups of healthy humans trying to save civilization from the man-eating monsters.
Zombieland, on the other hand, plays more like a western. It's set months after the zombie infection has destroyed the world - or at least America - leaving behind a wasteland of wrecked cars, empty buildings and dead bodies. The four main characters travel this world in a state of constant paranoia, always prepared for any attack that might be looming in the shadows. Substitute the desolate streets and zombies with rolling hills and gangs of outlaws and the film has all the makings of a classic western - even in tone, it's much more like Rio Bravo than Night of the Living Dead.
Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg, Adventureland) has survived the apocalypse by sticking to a strict set of rules for living in the place he now calls "Zombieland." We never learn his real name - all of the characters go by the places they hope to reach - but we know that he's been surviving on his own for quite some time.
He soon meets Tallahassee (the reliable Woody Harrelson), who wears a large cowboy hat, speaks infrequently and is always ready to enjoy his new favorite pastime: killing zombies. They're an odd duo, of course, which leads to some hilariously awkward conversations between the two.
They soon meet Wichita (Emma Stone, Superbad), an attractive redhead around Columbus' age, and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin, Little Miss Sunshine), who looks at Wichita like a big sister. After some very funny drama, the four join forces and venture into the frightening, empty world.
Relative newcomers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick wrote the script, finding the right pace for the film and a very human side to each of the characters. But the witty dialogue is only half the hilarity - the rest comes from a slew of visual jokes that director Ruben Fleischer and set designer Gene Serdena use to fill their frame. In just about every scene there's a nice little touch here or there, providing a smile or a laugh for the attentive viewer.
The detail with which the world was created is also a key. Many horror films will be set in the "post apocalyptic world" of a rugged house with two wrecked cars in the street, but in Zombieland the freeways are cluttered with cars of all makes and models, police cruisers and ambulances. It's a fantastic-looking film, and Fleischer keeps the brutal zombie gore to a minimum.
Zombieland is a film that most anyone can enjoy, whether they like the zombie genre or not. While there's a lot to admire in the production values, it's a fun movie, first and foremost, and I laughed from the beginning right to the end.
Zombieland is rated R for horror violence/gore and language. It opens on Friday at the Regal Cinema 7 in Boone.