' ' Cinema Romantico: Zombieland

Monday, October 05, 2009


Let's get the hyperbole outta the way right at the start, shall we? "Zombieland" is the best zombie movie I have ever seen. Now that proclamation should be taken with a grain of salt since I am far from a zombie movie aficionado. I've seen a few of the staples. I've seen "Night of the Living Dead" and "Shaun of the Dead" and "28 Days Later". But this is the one for which, unbeknownst to me, I was waiting. Maybe it's because "Zombieland" has a fidgety, neurotic, socially awkward guy with irritable bowel syndrome and a fear of clowns who after bashing in the head of an attractive young girl gone zombie is still polite enough to say "I'm so sorry" for its hero.

This would be Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) so named because he is trekking through a United States overrun by zombies (there is a brief throwaway explanation as to how it happened and that's good because who really cares? I don't) in an attempt to reach Columbus to see the family he doesn't really know. He has survived this long, he tells us in his wry narration, because he adheres to a strict set of rules. Always shoot a zombie twice, stay limber, never try to be a hero, etc. He encounters your standard southern rogue Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) who seems to have only two intentions in life - kill zombies and find a Twinkie. Remember, Twinkies have expiration dates and Tallahassee will be damned if he can't enjoy one before they all go bad.

This is what leads them to a supermarket which leads to them finding two sisters, one, Wichita (Emma Stone), with her knee high black boots, the most punk rock zombie killer in the land, and the other, Little Rock (Abigail Breslin, "Little Miss Sunshine" herself), who apparently has been infected by a zombie and must be offed. Or must she? Nah. Turns out these two sisters are skilled grifters. They con our intrepid male heroes, taking their guns and vehicle. Not to worry! In due time these two duos will become a close knit quartet - destination: Pacific Playland, where maybe, just maybe, for one day, Little Rock can indulge in the childhood she was never afforded.

"Zombieland", directed by Ruben Fleischer, written by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, is funny, and it's funny in different ways. It's funny in the one-liner, laugh-out-loud kinda way, sure, but it's also funny in the We're Being Very Serious Here (wink, wink) kinda way. Consider this exchange between Columbus and Wichita when discussing why they are headed to a west coast amusement park.

-"It's tough growing up in zombieland."
-"It's tough growing up."

That's funny. But the movie trusts the audience to be in on the joke. There is a lot of humor like it. (Important Note: If you have not seen the movie and have not read any reviews, as I did not before I saw it, DON'T. I repeat: DO NOT READ ANY REVIEWS OF THIS MOVIE BEFORE SEEING IT. Something absolutely hilarious happens, something I have not hinted at, nor will I, though many of my fellow critics do, and it will be 75x better if you go in cold. Trust me. And yes, most definitely yes, you will know it when it happens.)

Still, for all its humor, the film manages to be rather touching, too, in that Wes Anderson Ludicrously Poignant style, which I adore. There are truly absurd moments that still manage to tug the heartstrings. In fact, I caught myself in at least four Unforced Smiles during the movie (not counting the one I had in the parking lot afterwards). Consider the finest first kiss and the finest almost first kiss you are likely to see in a movie this year.

It should be mentioned the film is violent (rated: R). But it's also more light-hearted than, say, "Shaun of the Dead", and doesn't revel in the violence as much as it revels in character and it also is intelligent enough to refrain from going for the slam-bang, solve-everything end like so many movies of its ilk. It knows that life, whether real life here where I am, or in zombieland, is all about the little things.

It's why when the time comes for Columbus to "nut up or shut up" and he finds himself uttering a few of the most overused words in the English language I actually applauded quietly to myself. Those words have never been used better and have never mattered more.

I'd like to stress that what I'm about to say I mean with the utmost sincerity - "Zombieland" is one of the best films of the year.


Wretched Genius said...

And just think, only a few blog entries ago you were saying that you weren't really looking forward to this film. See, my beloved genre can occasionally produce something good.


Very, very occasionally.

david said...

I stopped reading when you said, "don't read a review before watching this film".

Nick Prigge said...

Don't worry. You can read the rest. I don't give it away. I don't even, as I said, hint at it.

And imagine, I would never have seen it if I hadn't seen the movie, which I wasn't planning to. But I decided for whatever reason I was in the mood. The movie gods helped me. I'm so glad. It was so good.

Rory Larry said...

you've seen Night of the Living Dead and don't think its better than Zombieland? I don't even know where to begin on objecting to that. It not only brilliantly tackles social issues in 1968 of all years and is creepy and suspenseful for the entire movie.

Zombieland is shallow. Really shallow. I stayed positive in my review simply because of your hinted about scene (and I do mention it in my review). I knew it was coming and didn't feel it was lessened by knowing it was coming.

Jesse Eisenberg is Hollywood's back up Michael Cera and just as annoying. The film's attempts at touching moments are painful when they aren't downright laughable. And frankly it does try to get clever with some of its kills and trying it fails.

Nick Prigge said...

Well, I was sort of trying to be hyperbolic (which, as we know, is rather unusual for me), but "Night of the Living Dead" and "Zombieland" are COMPLETELY different movies.

But even so I still enjoyed "Zombieland" more. I just did. It reminded me to some degree of "The Life Aquatic". All the film's touching moments are supposed to me laughable. Like I said in my review, it's Ludicrously Poignant.

There is humor in both these movies that I can see a lot people just not caring for at all, and that's fine. But it's right up my alley. I loved it.