What it lacks in originality the movie more than makes up for in pure laughs and entertainment.
Zombieland is just plain fun. It reminds us, as we head into the critical awards season, that there is nothing wrong with making a movie with no other motivation than simply to be as entertaining as possible. Zombieland is certainly that. The movie doesn’t take itself seriously and doesn’t expect the audience to, either. Its brilliance comes from the four solid lead actors who bring such believability to the movie’s premise that we are liable to believe anything that happens.
The movie’s main character and narrator is Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg). That’s not his real name, though; that’s just where he’s headed. Columbus is struggling to make it from Austin, Texas, to Columbus, Ohio, to find out if his parents are still alive. You see, this world is not the one in which we live. Our narrator has named his world Zombieland because the majority of the world’s population has become zombies. The plague has spread incredibly quickly as the infected feed off any human they can find.
Columbus meets Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) and the two form a tenuous partnership as they travel through Zombieland, looking for other survivors and Twinkies. The pair is tricked into giving up their weapons and vehicle by the sly and convincing Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) who are con women of the utmost talent. Eventually the foursome becomes a reluctant alliance as each realizes they very well may be the last humans on the planet.
The movie is the feature film debut of director Ruben Fleischer, who succeeds in creating a world where zombies running through the streets seems perfectly normal. He draws the audience into the reality of the movie through the opening credit sequence, which sets up the history of the outbreak and the type of humor and gore that is in store. Eisenberg’s calm, logical narration is a wonderful balance to the mayhem happening on screen. Columbus lives by a set of rules (more than 30 of them) which have helped him survive in Zombieland. The rules occasionally appear as a part of the background scenery as Columbus explains their reasoning and necessity.
Harrelson’s mediocre choice in roles and off-screen antics often make us forget that he is an extremely talented comedic actor. He is easily the most entertaining character as he straddles the line of hardcore zombie killer and lonely outsider. The movie’s funniest moments are because of Harrelson’s wonderful performance.
Stone is perfect as Wichita because she is able to project the image of a sweet, innocent girl or an ice-cold thief. Her beauty is her biggest weapon as her character but also as an actor. We assume she will drown surrounded by other terrific actors when in fact her performance is as good as those around her. Breslin is terrific, as always, as Little Rock. The young actress is becoming more confident in her talent as her little girl cuteness melts away to young maturity and natural skill. She will definitely not be a child actor who fades out of view as she gets older.
Do not go into the movie expecting a new take on the zombie movie genre. The movie borrows heavily from Dawn of the Dead and 28 Days Later, but it doesn’t matter. What it lacks in originality the movie more than makes up for in pure laughs and entertainment. Rarely is a movie so consistently funny and well performed from beginning to end. Zombieland is a welcome break of nonsensical amusement before the serious and somber Oscar contenders flood the box office. | Matthew F. Newlin