WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
An American wasteland overrun by undead monsters provides the ideal setting for outrageous comedy in Zombieland the debut feature from writer/director Ruben Fleischer. Woody Harrelson and Jesse Eisenberg play two human survivors who employ contrasting approaches to staving off the pesky flesh-eaters. Eisenberg’s Columbus is a neurotic worry-wart with a distinct obsessive-compulsive streak and a nagging case of irritable bowel syndrome who survives in Zombieland by adhering to a strict set of rules. Harrelson’s Tallahassee on the other hand is a whiskey-swilling cowboy who has no apparent rules of any kind only a vast arsenal of weapons and an insatiable craving for Twinkies.
After encountering each other on a deserted highway the two opposites decide to join forces if only to stave off the maddening solitude of Zombieland. But their numbers soon double when during an abortive Twinkies expedition at an abandoned supermarket they’re surprised to find a pair of enterprising young girls Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) hiding out in the stockroom. (All the characters are named after their hometowns if you haven’t figured that out already.)
Though their relationship gets off to a rough start (the seemingly innocent girls rob the gullible boys not once but twice) the unlikely quartet become fast friends and together embark on the perilous journey out west — to an abandoned theme park thought to be the only zombie-free sanctuary left on the planet.
It may be tempting to compare Zombieland to Shaun of the Dead thus far the most successful zombie-themed horror-comedy to date but Fleischer’s film bears little resemblance to UK director Edgar Wright’s indie classic. At its core Zombieland is really a road-trip comedy in the vein of Vacation Dumb and Dumber or well Road Trip in which our heroes travel cross-country on a quest encountering various obstacles along the way. In this case the obstacles happen to be ravenous cannibalistic zombies.
And it works thanks largely the charisma and chemistry of its lead actors and the irreverent wit of Fleischer who proves that there are still plenty of laughs to be gleaned from the increasingly well-worn zombie oeuvre.
The real hero of Zombieland however is Bill Murray. Just when the film exhausts its momentum and starts to meander the legendary star of Ghostbusters and Groundhog Day arrives unexpectedly on the scene delivering what is bound to be the most talked-about surprise cameo since Will Ferrell showed up at the end of Wedding Crashers. The presence of Murray and his trademark acerbic deadpan style injects Zombieland with a welcome jolt of energy giving it just enough gas to carry us through to the closing credits. (FYI: This is hardly a spoiler — Murray’s cameo is listed on IMDB.)
Zombieland isn’t concerned about messages or metaphors or stern warnings about the future in which society is headed; it just wants to make you laugh and have a good time. In that sense it’s an unqualified success.