Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick
Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin, Amber Heard, Bill Murray
R for horror violence/gore and language
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You don’t often associate zombie films with romantic comedies, but Ruben Fleischer’s humorous tale is far more entertaining than I expected. A disease has spread across the United States turning once proud and capable citizens into flesh-starved zombies. A hypochondriac has narrowly avoided a number of potential deaths thanks to his list of survival rules that form the backbone of the story.
The hypochondriac is played by Jesse Eisenberg, an up-and-coming actor in the Michael Cera class of actors, a spindly, even-toned social outcast who ends up being a type of savior. It’s a common projection of many young filmmakers’ youthful insecurities and an attempt to embrace the geek countercultural movement that has permeated modern American cinema and pushed the bounds of filmmaking in frequently excellent ways. Zombieland’s use of such a hero plays into more humorous elements of the film. None of the performances are exactly exceptional, but Eisenberg as well as Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin all create sympathetic and interesting characters that spread genre stereotypes beyond their common definitions.
The first act of the film revolves around Stone and Breslin conniving their way into Harrelson and Eisenberg’s ride and stash of zombie-smashing weapons. As the masculine duo are constantly one-upped by the women, the gender reversals don’t feel exploitative. The cross-country adventure takes the four to a California theme park that the Breslin feels sure is zombie free and will be a place where they can all settle down. Her safety is big sister Stone’s only concern even when she begins falling for lovable loser Eisenberg. Harrelson’s crazy zombie-butt-kicking emotional isolationist provides a good deal of heart for the film despite being an overly aggressive person.
It may not appeal to many outside the zombie fanbase, but should easily appeal to the younger generation who don’t mind relationship comedies that take unique and interesting twists but aren’t predicated on some falsified sense of beauty and brawn that seems to dominate a lot of teen dramas in the last two decades.
October 4, 2010