Combustible Celluloid
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With: Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin, Amber Heard, Derek Graf, Mike White
Written by: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick
Directed by: Ruben Fleischer
MPAA Rating: R for horror violence/gore and language
Running Time: 80
Date: 25/09/2009

Zombieland (2009)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Delight of the Living Dead

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

With zombie movies coming faster than vampire movies these days, it's hard to imagine what else could be done with the genre. (The idea of fast zombie in contrast to Romero's slow zombies has already been done to death.) But here comes Zombieland, a feature directorial debut from Ruben Fleischer, and along with Adventureland and Whip It, it's one of the year's most purely pleasurable entertainments. (All three have in common a long-lasting funny streak and a penchant for 1970s and 1980s middle-class, drive-in culture.)

What Zombieland does to set itself apart from other zombie movies is that it doesn't give a rip for the zombies. Here, they are nothing more than occasional distractions, or targets. Our main focus is on four humans (plus a fifth better left un-discussed), who make up a hilariously mismatched family unit. They are mostly addressed by the names of their hometowns, in an effort not to get too attached. Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) is a fretful shut-in, who learns to survive by making a list of rules. While making his way back to Ohio to (maybe) find his parents, he runs into his polar opposite, Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), an ornery redneck with a huge truck, boots, leather jacket and lots of weapons. Tallahassee's two main goals are to kill zombies and (maybe) find the world's last Twinkie. (In one hilarious scene, the pair finds an abandoned Hostess truck, but unfortunately filled with Sno-Balls.)

This mismatched pair eventually finds their rhythm together, just in time to meet a pair of sisters, cute Wichita (Emma Stone), and her little sister Little Rock (Abigail Breslin), who formerly worked as con artists and have learned to do so once again in "zombieland." Soon the new crew discovers the small pleasures to be had in a world mostly empty of people but still filled with electricity, still-functioning cars, supermarkets and roadside souvenir stores. Director Fleischer and co-writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick -- also making their feature debut -- move things along quickly without dwelling for too long on subplots or character development. Fun is the key word. A romance between Columbus and Wichita is allowed to flower without the usual nonsense, and the hilarious jokes keep flying well into the third act (when most comedies give up). The highest praise I can give Zombieland, however, is that it's the best zombie comedy since Shaun of the Dead.

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