Senior Editor
10.02.09 21 Comments

Jew Zombie Killers Can’t Hump: A Zombieland Review

Zombieland is a road movie about two of the last survivors of the zombie plague, who don’t really have anywhere to go.  They’re instead driven by their desires: Woody Harrelson’s “Tallahassee” a desire to find the last Twinkies on Earth, and Jesse Eisenberg’s “Columbus” to finally kiss a girl.  It’s a sort of funny premise for a sort of funny movie.  A movie that turns out to be a lot like the Twinkie — tasty enough, but provides little nutritional value, and after you’re done you feel kind of dirty.  It’s pleasant going down*, but you get the sense that the whole thing was ultra processed, created using proven science formulas to manipulate the consumer’s senses in a specific way.  Crap, this is a really good analogy, someone call USA Today.

Zombieland is funny enough, mostly sort of cute-funny, it looks pretty, and stuff happens.  Really the best thing it has going for it is its cinematography and well-developed sense of style.  Imagine Watchmen as a zombie comedy — lots of slow motion, with magically floating fluids and shards of glass that sparkle and dance, taking aesthetic pleasure in a bit of the ultra-violence.  And you can rest assured that the zombies aren’t some timely metaphor, just splatter dummies to be hit with bats and run over with cars and killed in new and delightfully gory ways, like strippers.  It really takes to heart the wisdom of George Washingto: “zombies are to be exploded.”

Director Ruben Fleischer films the zombie kills perfectly and makes everything a lot of fun, but even the solid execution can’t quite take it beyond the fact that it’s stock characters in a stock premise. Jesse Eisenberg is a neurotic Jew dork and Woody Harrelson is a fun-loving good ol’ boy.  They wring about as much comedy as they can from that — (One of the funnier lines, Eisenberg to Harrelson, who’s driving the car “Ooh, be careful.  You nearly knocked over your alcohol with your knife.”) — but it is what it is.  Later they meet up with Emma Stone, a badass chick who uses her looks to trick people into giving her what she wants, and cares only for her little sister (Abigail Breslin).  Another stock character.  The best part is a surprise celebrity cameo which I won’t spoil (you can read about it here, but you’ve been warned), which is very funny. But at this point, you just sort of expect that “insert celebrity cameo here” moment in a broad comedy, and what happens is sort of expected.  Not that what happens is bad — it’s like expecting sex and getting it.  Great, but how ’bout you tweak my nuts a little, maybe let the dog watch.  Spice it up a little.

It’s fun to watch the characters shoot stuff and smash up cars and tear apart a Native American gift shop, because hey, that’s probably what we’d do for fun if society no longer had rules.  But Zombieland comes from the Entrourage school of screenwriting.  Conflict?  What conflict?  Let’s have a pool party!  I know, I know, I’ll never convince some people that it’s possible to have too much of a good thing, and that it’s boring to watch characters do nothing but have fun and party, but even stuff that’s fun to watch, after a while it eventually starts to feel like a beer commercial.

Zombieland isn’t hard to sit through (especially not at 81 minutes), but it also isn’t something I’d ever tell someone that they needed to see.  It’s basically an Americanized Shaun of the Dead.  You’ll probably see it on an airplane at some point and that’s fine.  But other movies have done the same thing better.

Grade: C+

*Like your mom

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