October 1, 2009

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Zombieland (R)
Zombies have taken over the world but a few plucky humans attempt to appreciate the little things in Zombieland, a hilarious gory new addition to the zombie genre.

Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), for example, likes Twinkies and, before all those golden little treats go stale, he wants to enjoy one last snack cake. Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) on the other hand has simplified his survival to a set of rules — always put an extra shot in the zombie to make sure it’s dead, wear your seatbelt in case you have to crash your car to get rid of a zombie, don’t be a hero. Not that being a hero is something Columbus, a bit of a nerdy shut-in before the zombie plague, is inclined to do. However, when the sassy Wichita (Emma Stone) and her little sister Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) show up, the urge to show some heroics in hopes of impressing the girl starts to overtake Columbus at the oddest times, such as when he thinks a zombie is about to attack Little Rock.

Of course, zombies are always attacking — popping up in seemingly empty supermarkets, swarming around a deserted amusement park. While Tallahassee and Columbus are able to make a few impressive zombie kills (though perhaps not Zombie Kill of the Week), there seems to be little hope that zombies won’t eventually kill them all.

Hence the city names — better to refer to each other by emotionally-at-arm’s-length city names than by connection-fostering real names. Connections mean friendships, and friendships mean being a hero, and being a hero gets you eaten.

Zombieland is less George A. Romero and more Shaun of the Dead — but it’s Shaun of the Dead with the action of Hot Fuzz. Harrelson and Eisenberg are unlikely action heroes (Eisenberg gives off the same lit-major vibe he had in Adventureland, Harrelson’s vibe is “nuts”) but they kill, decapitate, explode, hack and rescue like they are Bruce Willises in a zombie-filled Die Hard (and now that I’ve put that out there, how great would that be?). As do Breslin and Stone, who also add a touch of “think fast, sucker” grifter-ness to their roles.

This foursome (and the aforementioned pitch-perfect Bill Murray in one of the best cameos ever; he tells such a fantastic Garfield joke that I want to go back and like that movie) helps to elevate what could have been simply a nice zombie-filled romp into a stomach-crampingly funny ride at a blood-soaked amusement park. A-

Rated R for zombie horror violence/gore and language. Directed by Ruben Fleischer and written by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, Zombieland is an hour and 23 minutes long and is distributed in wide release by Sony Pictures. It opens wide on Friday, Oct. 2.