Zombieland (2009)

I've now seen every Jesse Eisenberg movie this year, from Adventureland to Zombieland, so I'm qualified to say that, while he's appealing and has a flair for certain comic moves, he also lacks charisma in a way that's detrimental to his ability to play lead roles. He doesn't ruin either film, in fact, he's pretty good, there's just something missing. If it costs more to get Michael Cera for a part, I'd say that would generally be a good investment (or Anton Yelchin or Johnny Simmons [Jennifer's Body] or Patrick Fugit).

Speaking of Patrick Fugit, Zombieland reminded me in a way of a sweet, similar film called Wristcutters: A Love Story, in which he has to navigate a similar post-Apocalyptic landscape. That movie was deep and funny in a similar way to Zombieland, but deeper and funnier. But on the whole, Zombieland is a gentle and genial zombie flick with plenty of entertaining elements, mostly humorous rather than horrible, although the zombie effects are at times quite horrible (and that's a compliment).

Eisenberg plays a character known only as Columbus, after his hometown and his destination in the film. Columbus follows certain rules for surviving Zombieland, and it's fun to watch these play out, although the particular devices used for doing so seem to set up some things which don't quite ever pay off. The audience is led to believe that some throwaway gags are going to build up to something which they never build up to.

Columbus is headed home to see if any of his family have survived the coming of the zombie virus when he meets up with Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), a snakeskin-clad tough guy in search of the world's last remaining Twinkies. There's a little bit of a "bromance" going on between them as they learn to appreciate each other's strengths and weaknesses fighting zombies along the way.

Then they meet up with two sisters, Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigal Breslin, excellent), whose schemes lead them off course to Beverly Hills and a denouement set in an Adventureland-reminiscent amusement park.

Ah, but along the way, they decide to tour some movie-star homes, which leads to one of the best celebrity cameos I've seen. It was a surprise to me, despite having seen some previews of the film, so I won't ruin it by saying more about it, though who it is could easily be discovered. Suffice it to say that it works in spades, and there's an extra bit of it after the credits roll, so stick around for that.

Like I've said, the film is a genial enough horror comedy, perhaps a bit too indebted to the funnier Shaun of the Dead, but with some heart and point of view of its own.

The main cast are all pretty good, and especially Abigail Breslin as Little Rock, whose performance here makes one wish for a Western for her, perhaps even as Annie Oakley.

Like the recent, though superior Jennifer's Body, Zombieland works as a send-up of horror films, as well as a coming-of-age satire. But it's the priceless cameo that puts it over the top from three to three and a half stars.

10-12-09


Links for Zombieland

Internet Movie Database Entry

Roger Ebert Review

Official Site

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