Despite the abundance of gore and cannibalistic undead, “Zombieland” isn’t a horror movie. While there are a few scares and tense moments, on the whole the film is played more for laughs than for chills. Clearly taking a page from the brilliant English romantic comedy/zombie movie “Shaun of the Dead,” the characters are usually more concerned about their personal wants and needs than the ever-present threat posed by the ravenous ghouls.
When the story begins, zombies have already overrun everything. The United States is no more, the world has become the titular Zombieland. Beyond a brief throwaway line about a contaminated hamburger, there’s almost no information about how the outbreak began. Like the characters themselves, we’re simply thrust into the grim aftermath of a zombie apocalypse.
Jesse Eisenberg plays an awkward, fearful every-nerd who needed the end of the world in order to get him out of his apartment and away from his video games. He admits that he “avoided people like they were zombies” even before they really were. He has managed to survive by following a strict and lengthy set of rules, including limbering up before exercise, always wearing a seatbelt, being cautious of bathrooms among others.
He is joined by his polar opposite in Woody Harrelson’s character, Tallahassee. The pair refuse to exchange their real names in order to prevent forming attachments, instead they offer their hometowns as monikers. Harrelson is Tallahassee and Eisenberg is Columbus.
Though Columbus is the main character, Tallahassee steals the show as the alpha male of the duo. Far from being afraid of the new world, Tallahassee revels in taking out his frustrations on the undead. Harrelson clearly sinks his teeth into the role of a man who is only able to find his true place in the world through the utter destruction of society. His sole driving force is killing zombies while searching for the last remaining box of Twinkies snack cakes.
Rounding out the cast (except for one famous character who has a hilarious extended cameo) are Emma Stone and Abagail Breslin, playing sisters Wichata and Little Rock. After an initially adversarial relationship, Columbus and Tallahasee, team up with the girls in a seach for a zombie-free haven. Along the way, Columbus comes to realize that though his rules have kept him alive, they’ve also prevented him from really living. He becomes determined to rectify this and win the heart of Wichata.
Though it lacks the sharp social commentary of George Romero’s ground-breaking zombie flicks or the insight towards the human condition seen in “28 Days Later” by director Danny Boyle, “Zombieland” certainly has its moments. It resembles one of the many amusement park rides featured in the the film. It’s a fun experience that allows the viewer to simply sit back and enjoy the emotional ride without thinking too hard about anything. If watching a character blast away at the undead while riding on a rollercoaster cart sounds appealing, then this is the movie for you.
Rated: R (horror violence/gore and profanity)
Running time: 82 min.