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Zombieland - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Directing: B-
Acting: B-
Writing: B-
Cinematography: B
Editing: B
Special Effects: B+

As zombie movies go, Zombieland is better than average, but not particularly worthy of the hype. It's a bit of a mystery why so many people out there are seeing it multiple times; it's apparently striking a cord at the moment, but this movie will be easily forgotten in no time at all.

Its fundamental flaw is that, in clearly striving to be an Americanized version of the brilliant British comedy-horror film Shaun of the Dead, it succeeds in disappointing ways and fails at being anywhere near as good as its inspiration. Audiences here who haven't seen Shaun of the Dead truly do not know what they're missing.

The main difference is sentimentalism. In this post-apocalyptic, zombie world of the United States (very briefly explained as the result of a human strain of Mad Cow Disease, suggesting that these zombies are not actually dead -- just really sick and fucked up), we see four people traversing the decimated landscape in search of a "zombie-free zone" that we all know from the get-go doesn't exist. Director Ruben Fleischer presents this world with a perpetual wink, particularly when it comes to the treatment of zombies at the hands of this rogue band of thoroughly jaded survivors.

Or, I should say, almost thoroughly jaded. Each of the four people with speaking parts (with the later momentary addition of a star cameo in Beverly Hills) are named after the cities they're from: Jessie Eisenberg (The Squid and the Whale, Adventureland) is Columbus, and he narrates. After a clever opening sequence in which Columbus, a borderline-OCD priss, enumerates his list of rules for survival, he tells us how he came upon three other survivors: Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson, giving a performance just wooden enough to be appropriate here); and then scheming con artists Wichita (Emma Stone) and her tween companion Little Rock (Abigail Breslin, hardly recognizable now as the girl from Little Miss Sunshine).

For reasons that remain a mystery Fleischer has to throw in a sub-plot about Columbus's girl troubles, past and present; and his ridiculously predictable budding relationship with Wichita. People are here to see the scary and funny killing of zombies -- why the hell do we need this crap about relationships, and yes, even learning the importance of (chosen) family? Frankly, the flashback scene in which a zombified, would-be one-night-stand tries to eat Columbus is far more interesting -- and entertaining.

And that is the inconsistency of Zombieland: misplaced, earnest sentimentalism in a movie about zombies. The movie actually starts off with great promise: the opening titles are superbly done, with slow-mo shots of zombies attaching random people across the country in amusing circumstances (a zombie bried!), all of them literally running into the letters of the opening titles, so the letters are knocked out of the way and become part of the slow-mo action. The best shot in the entire film is at the end of this sequence, as Columbus is explaining his rule of survival -- one of which is always to wear seat belts. The slow-motion image of a plump lady flying through her windshield surrounded by all her dashboard trinkets is both jarring and hilarious.

It's a bad sign, though, when the biggest laugh of a film is during the opening titles.

That said, Zombieland is still generally enjoyable, even if some of the running jokes get tired about halfway through (this is particularly the case with Tallahassee's obsessive search for Twinkies). It's worth watching if only for the creative ways you get to see zombies getting killed, with the use of everything from gardening shears to car doors to, of course, a piano.

You just spend much of the time wishing you could see more of that, and less of the poor excuse for character development. Zombieland ends with an extended sequence in a California amusement park that should be a lot more fun than it is, although it is a kick to see several zombies get wiped out by a swinging amusement park ride.

The bottom line is that Zombieland definitely has its moments, but if you really want to see something that subverts the long-tired zombie genre, you'd still be better off going back to 2004's vastly superior Shaun of the Dead

Jesse Eisenberg has a little trouble with his first date in 'Zombieland'.

Overall: B-
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