Sunday, October 11, 2009

Zombieland Review

Directed by Ruben Fleischer
Released in 2009

Zombieland does not reinvent the wheel. A hybrid of a zombie and romantic comedy, Zombieland takes a lot of influence from films before it such as Shaun of the Dead and even the similarly titled (as well the career launch pad for one of this film's leading actors) Adventureland. However, it works because of its execution. The cast - with a pleasant surprise - fit with one another in a practically flawless manner, and the comedy and action are very well-balanced.

Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) is a kid on his own with a certain set of rules for surviving the zombie apocalypse. His OCD mentality is restricting but effective, as he has survived longer than most on Earth. He eventually runs into Tallahassee, played by Woody Harrelson, whose gun-ho approach strictly conflicts with his reserved attitude. Nonetheless, they join forces to survive until they run into the sly sisters, Wichitaw (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin). Their uncertain motives put the two males down often, but Columbus knows he has an attraction for the older sister (Stone) and she does too. The chemistry between the two is very good and similar to the Eisenberg-Kristen Stewart relationship from Adventureland. From me, that is a compliment. Emma Stone, more commonly known as "Jules" from Superbad, is in a similar role here but brings her own sexy charm and back-stabbing attitude to make it a fun role. Abigail Breslin is in her best role since Little Miss Sunshine as a tough girl despite her small appearance. The real star of the show here, however, is Woody Harrelson. An underrated actor in many regards, Woody constantly brings a rough, humorous approach to almost all of his roles and this one is one of his finest. Tallahassee directly contrasts Columbus's conservative approach and that really highlights his talents. He will casually, yet brutally, take down a zombie, laugh at rednecks' obsession for guns, grow furious at a Hostess truck for lacking his ultimate treat, Twinkies, and even grow emotional when his real reason for roaming the wastes of the US are revealed. This film has shined the much-deserved spotlight on Woody's career again, and the commercial and critical success this movie is experiencing can only foretell good things for his long-running career. Overall, the casting in this film is spot-on and its finest aspect.

However, the joy and carnage this film conveys through its story and action are also very notable. The film starts out as a typical zombie comedy, with countless undead killing helpless humans while Columbus's narration explains what they did wrong and how he avoids their mistakes. The opening is actually pretty brutal, with plenty of appendages either decaying or being eaten, and the huge bursts of blood are not for the faint at heart. The credits sequence, played to Metallica's epic "For Whom The Bell Tolls", is similar to Watchmen's as it contains many slow-motion scenes of carnage while still conveying a pseudo "history" of the zombie events (more like a collage of action honestly). Once the romantic interests are introduced, however, this film takes a long break from zombie action all together and focuses mainly on its comedic laurels. To some, this may seem like an unwelcome approach but I found it a perfectly fine way of mixing the movie up. The film's conclusion contains plenty of action so it ends up being very balanced. In around the middle of Zombieland, there is a certain cameo whose identity I will not reveal, but he (a hint at least) ended up being my favorite part of the film. He is a universally-loved actor anyway, and seeing him again is a pleasure for practically anyone who will being seeing a movie called "Zombieland."

All in all, Zombieland takes lemons and makes damn fine lemonade. You may have tasted some of it before, whether it be in the consistency or tartness, but it brings back good memories and is the perfect cure for thirst on a hot day. In this case, the hot day is the current slough of movies that really make this film stand out. Even without these limitations, Zombieland is an excellent zombie film and one of the year's better comedies. Its careful borrowing of older ideas end up working because of the stellar execution in almost every regard. The acting, action, dialogue, comedy, all works. And I am more than satisfied with that.

Final Verdict:
4 Stars Out of 5


SynisterWriter said...

Dude awesome review, makes me want to see it really bad. I heard it was good, but now it sounds really good :D

edzahos said...

Hey Zach, good review. This and Serious Man are top of my list. You might be interested in checking out this blog I came across:

Zachary Zahos said...

Thanks to both for the comments. :)

And yes, Ed, A Serious Man is my #1 movie at the moment but only the city is playing it. I am sure it will be coming to local theaters soon but the wait is killing me. It looks like a really good film.

Geoff said...

Wow Zach, 4 out of 5, that is unprecedented from you. You're usually so harsh on movies; nevertheless, another excellent review.

Zachary Zahos said...

Oh Geoff, I am not that bad...sometimes people tell me I am too positive. Nonetheless, thank you. :)