Review: Zombieland

Ruben Fleischer’s feature debut is an extremely fun zombie comedy that is definitely more comedy than any of the many other genres on display here, which isn’t a bad thing since it is frequently hilarious.
The zombie apocalypse is well under way in the United States and the living dead vastly outnumber the living. We follow the path of Columbus, as in his destination is Columbus, Ohio, in which he hopes to find his family still intact. Columbus lives by a set of rules to keep from becoming the living dead, many of which we will get a lesson in over the course of the film. Columbus is a former college student who has now hit the road and he ends up running into and pairing up with a man known as Tallahassee, a bit reckless but a hell of a zombie killer, the two form an unlikely team that is both effective and beneficial to their survival. The pair eventually runs into another couple on the run, this time a pair of sisters, Wichita and Little Rock are their call signs with Wichita being the older and Little Rock a 12 year old on the run. The foursome eventually team up, though not very smoothly and they decide to watch each others backs with the hope of finding a little peace if not what they are looking for.
The film as I mentioned in the opening is quite the genre mash up. One part horror, one part indie romantic comedy, one part action film, and three part comedy the film has a little bit for everyone. The film is first and foremost a comedy, and those looking for the horror/action stuff will find it is rather contained to beginning and the end of the picture with the middle devoted to getting to know these characters and building compassion for them along the way. And the film does that really well by making everyone likeable and fun to be around which also helps elevate the horror and the action of the picture when it is around as we really care about these characters and are hoping none of them bite the dust.
Those looking for a scared though, don’t come in expecting a creep fest. There are a couple of tense and out at you moments, but for the most part it is the graphic gore in the early goings that will get the faint of heart. Though, Fleischer does a nice job of using some of the gore to good comic effect, but after he sets the table through the first couple of scenes there isn’t a lot to worry about over the rest of the picture. This is all too just let you know that it is a comedy genre film not a gross out horror fest, in fact it is more keen to an indie comedy in its structure in pacing than anything else.
The writing in the film is very sharp and the execution of the rules is done incredibly well. The film opens with a run down of the rules, then quickly a scene of Columbus executing them. But the rules pop up over and over again and it is a lot of fun to watch our heroes execute them, and even funnier when they sneak the rules written out subtly in the background.
The cast, though sparse, is fantastic from top to bottom. Jesse Eisenberg is great as always and gets his biggest main stream role yet which he knocks out of the park. Columbus is neurotic, sticks to his rules, and has never really taken risks in his life and Eisenberg does a great job at capturing that but still instilling the snooty confidence the character has. He also makes a potentially unappealing and relatable character likeable and you will find yourself quickly getting behind him in the picture. Woody Harrelson on the other hand has to do very little to win us over. The character is written and created so well, you can’t help but not get behind Tallahassee. Harrelson dives head first into the character and makes him even bigger and better then he is written on the page, providing endless one liners and one of the better characters I have seen in a movie in a while. Emma Stone is sexy, funny, and has a bit of an edge to her that works perfectly for Wichita. The character has some trust issues and Stone nails it, but gives the character depth as she slowly lets down her guard and softens up to her new companions that we first only see with her sister Little Rock. Little Rock is played by the always great Abigail Breslin and it is fun to see her take on a film that is entirely unexpected. She doesn’t have a whole lot to do, but she shines when she does, and throws in a couple of good lines throughout the picture. Amber Heard has another solid turn in a brief appearance in Columbus’ flashback and gets to play both sides of the ball if you catch my drift. The cameo you might have heard of by now is also as good as you hear it is, but I won’t spoil here.
In the end, Zombieland is a grand ole time at the theater and one of the most fun films of the year. It is well crafted and rarely drops a joke, though I wish it had a bit more of the zombie fighting throughout the picture. Again, that’s not to say I was disappointed, I just think Fleischer and company did an excellent job with the action/zombie fighting stuff I wish there was more of it. Other than that, not a whole lot to complain about, maybe a bit better pacing in the middle of the picture but I think that feeling is more attributed to the fact that the zombie stuff dies down a bit and we focus on the characters, which is great just caught me off guard. Check it out if you are a comedy fan, even if you are a bit off put by the horror stuff I promise it won’t diminish your experience.
Zombieland is an A-

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