Zombieland would benefit greatly if there was some Frank Zappa on the soundtrack, just sayin’.
In this Americanized Shaun of the Dead, we have four main characters; Woody Harrelson plays the gun-toating badass Tallahassee, Jessie Eisenberg plays Columbus, his dweeby sidekick and our hero, Emma Stone is the hottie and that girl from Little Miss Sunshine is her sister. They inhabit an America that has been infested with zombies. I don’t need to describe the zombies, they are the same as most zombies, not the new-age super-fast ones that jump out of nowhere for kicks and flash across the screen, more in the classic mold. Anyways most humans are dead and these folks are merely trying to survive.
Columbus is a quirky and awkward loner, a virgin and, well, a pussy, at least compared to everyone else we meet. Actually he’s basically playing ‘the Michael Cera’ role, which also means he gets the hot girl in the end (I guess they couldn’t get Michael Cera for the part, but Eisenberg fills in adequately). He has surprisingly done well for himself in Zombieland; he is the only person he knows that is still alive at the films’ start. He’s been able to survive because he follows a strict set of rules. These rules are explained in an entertainingly violent montage that shows brutal deaths by zombie when they are not followed. The rules include ‘always wear a seat belt’, ‘double-tap’ (shoot the Zombie again once he’s down) and ‘stay out of bathrooms’ amongst many others. In a sometimes humorous little touch, when rules are followed throughout the film text appears to make note of this
Columbus meets up with Tallahassee, who plays by his own set of rules. Immediately as Columbus tries to introduce himself, Tallahassee cuts him off by saying ‘no names,’ which is why they refer to each other by geographic location. This reminded me of a line by Brando in Last Tango in Paris, though fortunately there is no butter scene. Tallahassee seems to have two goals, to kill zombies and to find Twinkies. Yeah there is a running joke throughout the movie which misses more often than not about Tallahassee’s desire for Twinkies. The one time it’s actually funny is when the Tallahasee and Columbus risk their lives to investigate a Hostess truck, thinking there will be Twinkies inside. They burst in to find only Snoballs instead, which enrages Tallahasee, ‘I hate coconut,’ he says,’not the taste, the consistency.’ I agree with him there.
Along the road they meet Wichita and her younger sister. There are some funny geeky guy/hot girl moments, nothing new but it’s done well. In need of a place to stay, Tallahasee decides they will bunk up in the home of a famous celebrity. He picks his favorite, Bill Murray. This scene, in which the four of them stay in Murray’s home, is the best in the movie, and one of the funniest scenes of the year. I won’t go into detail it in order not to ruin it, but this scene alone makes Zombieland worth seeing.
After the scene in Murray’s mansion, the film drags. You can only make so many Twinkie jokes and only kill so many zombies in a variety of ways before it starts to get old. If Zombieland ended after that scene and was a 45 minute short film, it would have been great. The second half dissolves into clichéd predictability, which is too bad. However I’ve got to recommend it, if only to watch it up to that point. There are a lot of funny moments and there are a few jokes that fail. The action sequences are executed wonderfully, and there is much creative and funny violence, so much in fact that it gets repetitive fast. In short, Zombieland is a fun popcorn/bong movie that falls short of its potential, and falls short of its hilarious British predecessor.