Sunday, October 4, 2009

Zombieland (Review)

     I must preface this with a bit of a confession.  I LOVE zombie movies!  I will attempt to be as objective as possible in this review, but it will be difficult to find the line between the merits of "Zombieland" and my own, personal bias. 

    Amazingly, this is my third zombie comedy.  I know, those words just don't sound like they go together, but, just like anything else, if you have all the right elements, the setting or subject matter shouldn't effect you that much.  Ok, sure, an undead apocalypse full of bloody, disgusting, zombies killing people and eating human flesh might effect that delicate balance of all the right elements more than other subject matter, but you can adjust.  "Zombieland" does this well.

     Much like "Shaun of the Dead", which almost killed the genre of zombie comedies that it, its self created, by doing it almost too well, "Zombieland" uses a mix of light comedy, very dark comedy, and just enough human drama.  This mix seems to allow you to have comedy in what would, seemingly, be very unfunny situations, by allowing the characters to use those humorous moments as a crutch for dealing with the end of their world.  Just don't stray too far in the other direction, letting the weight of the end of the world fall on the character's shoulders, and it remains a comedy.  Sort of the difference between M*A*S*H in the early years and the later ones where Alan Alda was writing and directing.  "Zombieland" does this, without a lot of obvious, over the top, gross out comedy, and also manages to allow its characters to grow some, which makes for a story that holds your attention while enabling you to find humor in some really dark moments.  (There, actually, is not a lot of gore in "Zombieland".  Oh, there's some, obviously, but not nearly as much as there could have been.)  Woody Harrelson does an excellent job as loner, zombie killer, Tallahassee.  Jesse Eisenberg also does a great job as the almost neurotic loner, Columbus.  Rounding out our cast are Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin as Wichita and Little Rock, respectively.  (If you think you've noticed a theme in our characters names, you are right.  Names lead to emotional attachments that they just can't afford, so they stick to destinations.)  Stone doesn't really get a chance to flex her acting muscles much, but, then again, her character, hot, last woman on earth, isn't exactly a challenging role or a challenge for her.  Breslin, doesn't exactly have a part that she can shine in either, but she does well and has a lot of talent that, sadly, "Zombieland" just doesn't give her the chance to show off.  Oh, and let's not forget Bill Murry as, Bill Murry.  He only has a small part in the film, but manages to bring his best Bill Murry.  Although, I think his 'final' scene may have crossed that very thin line between dark comedy and morbid humor.  Or maybe they were just trying to get a bit of suspense out of the moment, and failed.

     Now, as much as i love zombie movies and love to see them spoofed well, "Zombieland" has its faults.  The plot, characters, and their stories aren't exactly original.  Of course, part of that comes from the fact that "Zombieland" is spoofing zombie movies and characters found therein.  The comedy is good, but not constant, laugh out loud funny.  I was amused throughout the movie, but I wasn't exactly in stitches.  Also, the penchant to point out the rules along the way with on screen text might throw some, more, let's say, 'more traditional,' movie viewers, but is forgivable, because it is a comedy, and it goes along with the almost constant narrative provided by Eisenberg's character.

     All that having been said, "Zombieland" may not be the best comedy out this year, or even the best zombie comedy ever, but it is funny, well done, and worth seeing, unless, of course, you just can't take undead corpses feasting on the flesh of the living.  To each his own, I suppose.

     As a side note, the third zombie comedy I've seen, and easily the worst of the three, was Black Sheep.   No, not the Chris Farley movie.  I'm talking about a New Zealand based, zombie sheep movie (yes, I said zombie sheep) that's so bad, it's funny, if you're into that kind of thing.  

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