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I walked into Zombieland in a terrible mood and walked out a completely different person. No, I wasn’t turned into a zombie; I just walked out unreservedly delighted. Seriously, like twinkle-in-your-eye happy. Zombieland is filled with the horror genre’s standard overdose of blood and guts, but it’s also packing something else: humor. Add in a charming band of misfits and you end up with something disturbing, thrilling, hilarious and sweet, all at the same time. Whether you’re in a good mood, a bad one or indifferent, Zombieland is an incredibly fun film. Forget the twinkle in your eye; you know that dumb grin you get on your face when you’re really into a great movie? The one you hope you caught yourself making before anyone else notices? You’re going to be stuck with that grin long after Zombieland is over.
The film’s main protagonist is Columbus (Jesses Eisenberg), one of the few non-zombies left in the country thanks to a strict set of rules. The list includes the cardio rule, seatbelt wearing rule, and my personal favorite, the double tap. Nobody wants a zombie presumed dead to jump up and catch them off guard. Better be safe than sorry and put an extra bullet in that sucker’s head. On the other hand, Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) has no rules. The only thing Tallahassee is concerned with is killing as many of those bloody-faced maniacs as possible and doing so in the most creative way he can think of. The two wind up crossing paths as Columbus makes his way to Columbus, Ohio to find his family and Tallahassee heads towards, well, you probably guessed it, Tallahassee, Florida.
Tallahassee’s obsession with a certain snack takes the guys into a supermarket where they find their female counterparts in a feeble situation. Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) aren’t as innocent as they seem, but the tension fades and the four decide to join forces and drive cross-country so Wichita can make good on her promise to take Little Rock to an amusement park in California.
Everything works in Zombieland. The casting, the screenwriting and the cinematography all meld perfectly creating a thoroughly enjoyable horror comedy hybrid. Harrelson’s Tallahassee may have a pathetic weakness, but he’s nothing short of awesome. He uninhibitedly stomps around onscreen bashing zombies into the ground and keeps you laughing as he does it. Harrelson’s over the top performance –but rightly so - is balanced by the subdued Eisenberg. You’d expect Eisenberg to be typecast similarly to Michael Cera, but there’s added warmth to Eisenberg that stops him from falling down the awkward-nice-guy hole. Eisenberg is no Channing Tatum but he’s a little stockier than Cera and handles a double-barreled shotgun pretty well. When it comes to the female department he’s also got a leg up on other nice guys; he’s awkward, but not so painfully that romance is ridiculous. Eisenberg and Harrelson are the shining stars of the film, but Breslin and Stone are in no way hiding in their shadows. There’s more to their characters than you’d expect. As a whole, the group has seamless chemistry and will instantly strike a chord.
Kudos to the cast, but the characters wouldn’t be as likeable if is wasn’t for the script. Co-writers and high school buddies Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick have impeccable timing when it comes to wisecracks and know just the right moments to throw in some emotion to keep the characters benevolent. Ruben Fleischer does the dialogue justice. You get a taste of each character’s troubled past and even a hint of distress over the current zombie infestation, but never enough to slow the film down. You zip from scene to scene each of which is packed with vivid imagery and dazzling set designs. Not counting the remarkable climax scene, one part that’s particularly stunning takes place in a souvenir shop.
Another fantastic portion of the film involves a cameo. Even though I know you can Google your way to revealing the actor, try to keep it a mystery so you can get the full effect of the scene. It’s a cleverly crafted portion of the film that’s a sure crowd pleasure. Lastly, Zombieland The Movie Rule #1: Enjoy the film for what it is. Don’t go digging around Zombieland for realism. Some of the characters’ decisions are questionable and the whole zombie scenario is implausible, but this is a gem of a film that is immensely enjoyable for what it is.