- Zombieland (2009). Dir. Ruben Fleischer. With: Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Abigail Breslin, Emma Stone.
- This movie is for: Viewers that like comedic gore. Fans of horror/comedy mashups like Dead Rising or Shaun of the Dead. Those amused by Woody Harrelson going berserk.
- This movie is not for: anyone that has no stomach for gore. At 75 minutes running time, those who value quantity over quality.
This movie features one of the most disgusting titles sequences I have ever seen. As the credits fly by, we are treated to gory slow-motion shots of zombie’s heads exploding, or falling zombies splatting on the ground, or zombies feeding on human flesh. Those gory shots come at the end of cartoony gags that would be at home in a Warner Brothers cartoon. That dichotomy pervades the movie: gore and straight-ahead action sequences paired with witty comedy.
Quick plot summary: After a global outbreak of (basically) mad-cow disease for humans, most of the population of the United States are zombies, and the human population is dispersed and disorganized across the wasteland, sardonically referred to as “Zombieland.” Jesse Eisenberg is a socially awkward anti-Casanova that manages to stay alive by adhering to his set of rules, which are referred to constantly throughout the movie. He meets up with Woody Harrelson, then gets conned by the sister con-artist duo of Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin, who are headed to Pacific Paradise (Six Flags Magic Mountain stand-in). They join up, and hijinks ensue.
For all the gore and gags, the movie makes it’s biggest impression in how charming it is. Eisenberg’s character is the type of stereotype that we’ve been coached to despise (compulsive World of Warcraft player, hasn’t been outside for two weeks, drinks Mountain Dew: Code Red by the liter), and yet he’s a vulnerable and sympathetic lead. I’m still figuring out what I think of Emma Stone, but here she does a serviceable job with the tough-as-nails outside, heart of gold inside character that serves as a love interest and foil to Eisenberg. Abigail Breslin does a good job with her material (although she did not stand out), and there’s an extremely funny cameo from Bill Murray.
Even with all these fine performances, the movie is Harrelson’s. He takes every “Woody Harrelson” character, then dials it up to 11. His function in the movie is similar to Johnny Depp’s in the Pirates of the Carribean franchise–equal parts competence and madness. He’s insanely funny, and worth the price of admission alone.