October 01, 2009


Clean-up on Aisle 5

Grade: B

Director: Ruben Fleischer

Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, and Abigail Breslin

MPAA Rating: R

Running Time: 1 hour, 28 minutes

Thirty years ago, George A. Romero tailored his chosen film genre – zombie horror movies – into a critique of American consumerism and social decadence and excess in Dawn of the Dead. Hollywood’s latest zombie flick, Zombieland, is not set inside a shopping mall. But, when four survivors of a zombie pandemic begin a trek for utopistic refuge, they don’t climb a majestic mountaintop or setup camp on a white sand beach. Instead, they make tracks for Pacific Playland, a Southern California amusement park where they believe they can recreate one final conception of innocence in a world gone mad. Interestingly, once the survivors illumine the park’s lights, zombies for miles around are drawn its neon glow like consumer moths to a flame.

Prior to that, Zombieland chronicles the uneasy bond forged between the final foursome, each of whom refers to each other by the name of their respective hometowns to avoid emotional attachments that might need to be severed at a moment’s notice. Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) lives by an enumerated set of rules for surviving in Zombieland: practice good cardio, always double tap downed zombies, check the backseats of cars before getting in, etc. Columbus hooks up with Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), a hard-charging redneck who relishes both his proficiency at killing the undead and the chance to taste just one more Twinkie before he dies of they all go bad, whichever comes first.

Along the way, they hookup with a grifter sister-act (Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin) and crash at Bill Murray’s mansion, leading to the film’s best sequence and Murray’s funniest onscreen offering in years. Let’s just say it takes the end of the world for Murray to express regret over Garfield and give us the closest thing we’ll ever see to another Ghostbusters sequel.

Zombieland boasts some nifty art direction and makeup, and director Ruben Fleischer supplies an opening credits sequence cut from the Watchmen cloth, set to the strains of Metallica’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls.” However, it is the performances that carry the film through numerous slow patches and a generally aimless screenplay. Both Eisenberg and Harrelson indirectly spoof prior roles: Harrelson in National Born Killers and Eisenberg in the like-titled Adventureland, another movie in which his trademark neurotic Nellie comes of age inside an amusement park. And Stone supplies a glimpse of the fine actress she can become once she learns to curb her nervous tics.

As far as zom-coms go, Zombieland is not scarier or funnier than Shaun of the Dead. But, at an efficient 88 minutes, it is a rollicking, amusing diversion from both real-life tribulations and the films (and filmmakers) that wallow in them.

Neil Morris

1 comment:

constant gina said...

When I first saw the preview I could have sworn this movie was a remake of Duke Nukem...dope movie though...