Movie review: Zombieland

zlandThe comedy-horror combo is a tricky one to pull off. For every “Shaun of the Dead” success there are 10 “Idle Hands” or “Vampire in Brooklyn”-type fiascos that completely botch the tone.

So, it’s a nice surprise that “Zombieland” manages to do a lot of things right – I wouldn’t say it’s the game-changing film that people are making it out to be, but it’s a fun flick that balances the gore and the chuckles nicely.

Set it a near-future U.S. that’s been ravaged by an outbreak of zombies (apparently the result of a burger gone bad), the remaining few survivors scrape along by killing the undead and moving from town to town in search of the (mythical) zombie-free zone.

One of these survivors is Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), a neurotic college student who has managed to survive the plague by following a strict code – which the movie cleverly shows us as the situations arise.

When Columbus hooks up with wildman Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), the mismatched duo decide they can do the most damage together. Of course, all Tallahassee really wants is a Twinkie, but is foiled at every opportunity.

The pair meet up with a set of grifter sisters, Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin), who hijack their truck and weapons twice. Columbus is totally gaga over Wichita, so he doesn’t really seem to mind, and for matters of convenience, the quartet decides to head to Pacific Playland, supposedly the last zombie-free place on Earth.

And so, the film turns into a road-trip movie, albeit one where lots of time is given to the dispatching of the walking dead. Even at a scant 81 minutes, the film drags a bit, although it is saved by a surprise (and brilliant) cameo in the middle.

I’m glad that there’s been a Harrelson renaissance as of late; I’ve always enjoyed his work, and he is at his finest when given the opportunity to play things for laughs. Tallahassee loves what he’s doing, and Harrelson’s joy is infectious.

Eisenberg generally gets on my nerves – he bugged me in “Adventureland” – and while he’s somewhat annoying here, he isn’t the sole focus of the movie. I will say that Emma Stone continues to impress; I’ve pretty much liked her in everything I’ve seen, and that counts junk like “The House Bunny” and “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past.”

Yeah, “Zombieland” isn’t particularly scary, but it’s got a couple of out-there kills, and just enough goo and pus to make teenage girls squirm. The door is left open for a sequel, and with a $25 million opening weekend, I wouldn’t be surprised if we get another peek into the lives of our fearless zombie killers.

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~ by Elliott on October 7, 2009.

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