The closer we got to the release of Zombieland, the more excited I got. I kept reading positive buzz flying around the web (on places like Twitter), so much so that it was hard to ignore. I was able to avoid reading any reviews, keeping myself fresh for when I had the opportunity to see it. The big question created by all of the good word: is it possible? Could Zombieland be as good as all these people are saying? I entered that dark, chilly theater hoping that it was, wanting it to succeed.
Less than 90 minutes later I emerged from the theater. I had a grin plastered from ear to ear, a shirt littered with the remnants of a bag of popcorn, and I am pretty sure that any words that escaped my mouth were incoherent. Most of these details can be confirmed by the theater employees. Zombieland is utterly fantastic.
The film comes out firing on all cylinders and does not let up until its all-too-soon conclusion. There is a scant 80 minutes in this movie from opening frame to final credit, a fact that had me rather worried going in. It is not that a short movie cannot be good, but I was worried that it would not have enough time to develop properly (just look at the 79 minutes of 9). This film is not held back by its short run time; it still manages to cram in a ton of laughs and zombie action and still have room for genuine heart and character. Sure, they may be a little ridiculous, but they are real for this world, which is not meant to be ours. With those facts known, I still could deal with another 20 minutes or so of this universe, so I hope there is some sort of expanded version down the line.
I am not trying to suggest that this is a game changing sort of movie. What I am saying is that the director and writers have taken familiar elements and given them the spark of renewed life, thus creating a film that feels fresh and exciting.
Zombieland is set in the near future. There has been an outbreak of zombie-ism and there are very few people left in the world. One of those people still alive is Columbus (named, like the rest of the characters, for his city of origin), played by Jesse Eisenberg (Adventureland). He is a nervous fellow who does not enjoy the presence of others. Who knew that his anti-social behavior would help him survive a zombie apocalypse?
To aid in his survival, Columbus has created a list of rules by which he lives. These rules include things like cardio, avoiding bathrooms, and wearing your seat belt. All good things to know, but we all know that when a movie lists rules, those rules are bound to be broken, or at least severely stretched. This begins to come true when Columbus meets Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), who happens to be a zombie-killing machine and is also looking for the last Twinkie in the world.
The two begin to travel together, two guns are better than one and all that. On their travels, they meet Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin). After a rocky start, the foursome begin a journey to an amusement park in California, said to be the only zombie-free place in the country.
Zombieland is a simple movie. It takes rather over the top personalities, puts them in an over the top situation, and lets the fun ensue. It is not a serious movie, it is not intended as a serious movie, but the movie is not a joke. The movie sets up its universe, makes its rules, and then it plays by them. It is a great union of blood, buddy comedy, and heart.
What really puts it over the top is the way the pace never lets up, yet the characters are still developed and feel fully rounded. I actually care about the people involved as they navigate their way through this new, dangerous world. On top of that, it is really funny and delivers on the promise of the genre.
Director Ruben Fleischer does a wonderful job. The movie looks great, and probably makes the best use of slo-mo since 300. He gets the most out of his actors and the setting making this a movie that is sure to get a good deal of replay value.