"Time to nut up or shut up."
Zombieland is a big piece of yummy cake with buttercream icing. It's Sprinkles Cupcakes, Crispy Cream Donuts. Empty, fat calories but just too good to care.
As usual, I don't do spoiler alerts so be warned.
It's a Zombedy and a good one at that. Almost pitch perfect is the phrase that comes to mind. Couldn't say there were many false notes (except as a friend mentioned in one of his Facebook posts - who the hell is running the power grid that is amply used?) Plus, I have to say I wasn't wild about the Bill Murray character. Didn't add a lot to the story and felt a bit forced although Mr. Murray remains one of our most fearless actors. But those are minor issues in an almost perfect and fun film. "Men In Black," "Shaun of the Dead," "The Incredibles," - I'd rate it up there with those also almost perfectly-envisioned genre films.
It's a road trip so plot is secondary - let's just go from point A to point B and have some adventures along the way. In most road trips it's the journey, not the destination and the twists and turns along the way kept this one very enjoyable. Tallahassee's search for a Twinkie (pretty soon life's little twinkie gauge is gonna go empty) is fun sidenote as he goes from store to store looking for the elusive creamy cakes and having to fight off zombies who have populated these places. His line about the fact that there will be no more Twinkies someday is sober testimony to the reality surrounding the fun - it's gonna get much worse in Zombieland before it ever gets better. Also, the writer built in a "Xanadu-type" of mythology in that everyone knows a city where zombies don't live - except they're all wrong - there is no paradise on Earth anymore. This sort of stuff is under the surface but shows a solid creative understanding that even when your characters are having fun, they have to pay the price at some point.
The characters of Jesse Eisenberg and Woody Harrelson are well-conceived and unique enough to form a good alliance. Jesse is an OCD geek and Woody is an out-of-control cowboy.
Columbus: There are no penguins in the North Pole.
Tallahassee: ...You wanna see how hard i can punch?
And the actors really deliver on those potentials in strong fashion. You know you're in a good film when you see the filmmakers delivering on scenes that you could only get from this plot and these characters. I don't think I've seen anyone kill zombies with more abandon, relish and creativity than Tallahassee (Woody) or someone be more surprised when he does than Columbus (Eisenberg.) Although Columbus always carries a shotgun and uses it effectively, he always seems shocked when it fires. Love that. The girls Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) as two former (and current) grifters alone in a harsh world of zombies are just so believable and well-conceived that I never had a single moment when I doubted they could or would exist and they would continue to take the boys for whatever ride they wanted and that the Zombies themselves would be consistently outmatched by these strong female archetypes - girls rule in this film - seriously.
Okay, so going to the Disneyland-type of playground and riding the rides is a bit muddle-headed but the ending has a lot of fun taking place there as Tallahassee rides a merry-go-round and blows zombie brains out as he passes them. Then there's the scene where Harrelson locks himself in a wire cage and lets the zombies attack him - truly inspired as all the stuffed animals in the cage get blown to shreds while he takes out hundreds of zombies in the relative safety of this cage looking like a refugee from a John Woo film.
Dialogue sparkles. Just sparkles. It's funny, revealing, touching - everything you could want.
Little Rock: Who's Bill Murray?
Tallahassee: Alright, I've never hit a kid before. I mean that's like asking who Gandhi is.
Little Rock: Who's Gandhi?
Tallahassee: We got taken hostages by a twelve-year-old?
Columbus: Well, girls mature way faster than boys.
Insanely good stuff.
The "story mythology" is very strong with Columbus reciting his "rules" like "You need good cardio" - to outrun the Zoms, doncha' know? And "Double Tap" - the art of hitting, shooting or crushing a zombie's head 2x in order to make sure it's dead. Just really funny stuff and probably true if zombies were to really attack you.
And I really loved the idea of giving the characters the names of cities instead of real names - it speaks to the idea that this is a world in which you cannot trust anyone because they might suddenly turn into a zombie and eat you. Don't get too close, don't form deep alliances or attachments. A sad but true fact of a Zombie Apocalypse. And, of course, the lesson that they all have to learn - which is, you have to trust someone at some time to survive - zombies or not.
I'd say this film rates a nine-point-five out of ten - in fun, empty calories perhaps but as I've said, it's just too delicious to care. Look for a sequel soon, I'm sure. As much fun as this one was, I can see Zombieland 2, 3, 4, 5 and on coming. I really wouldn't mind one every Halloween.
Rhett Reese (written by) &
Paul Wernick (written by)