Thursday, 16 February 2012

Zombieland (2009)

Zombieland is a 2009 American zombie comedy film directed by Ruben Fleischer from a screenplay written by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick. The film stars Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, and Abigail Breslin as survivors of a zombie apocalypse. Together they take an extended road trip across Southwestern United States in an attempt to find a sanctuary free from zombies.

Zombieland received positive critical reviews and was a commercial success, grossing more than $60.8 million in 17 days and surpassing the 2004 film Dawn of the Dead as the top-grossing zombie film to date in the United States.

The Plot

A mutated strain of mad cow disease has turned most humans into cannibalistic zombies within two months after the initial outbreak. Unaffected loner college student "Columbus" (Jesse Eisenberg) is attempting to make his way to Columbus, Ohio to see whether his parents are still alive, more out of a sense of obligation than any real concern. Along a stretch of highway, he meets "Tallahassee" (Woody Harrelson), another wandering survivor who seems driven solely by his desire to find Twinkies. They elect to travel together.

The two men enter a local grocery store (looking for Twinkies), where they dispatch a number of the infected. In a back room, they encounter "Wichita" (Emma Stone) and her younger, 12-year-old sister "Little Rock" (Abigail Breslin). The sisters were con artists before the catastrophe, and have little trouble tricking Tallahassee and Columbus into handing over their weapons. The girls leave, taking their vehicle in the process. Now forced to travel on foot, the two men find a Hummer stocked with weapons, with Tallahassee set out bent upon revenge, but when they catch up with the girls, the two once more gain the upper hand, relieving the men of their weapons and car again. Tallahassee manages to wrestle away Little Rock's gun, resulting in a Mexican standoff. Columbus negotiates an uneasy truce, and they all travel in the Hummer.

The girls state that they are going to the "Pacific Playland" amusement park, which is supposedly free of zombies. Columbus does not want to go along at first, but when Wichita informs him that his hometown has been destroyed, he stays with the group. When they reach Hollywood, Tallahassee takes them to Bill Murray's mansion. Tallahassee and Wichita meet Murray himself, uninfected but disguised as a zombie so he can walk (and golf) safely among the infected. When Murray attempts to scare Columbus and Little Rock as a practical joke, Columbus shoots him, believing him a real zombie. As Murray lies dying, Little Rock asks if he had any regrets, to which he replies with his last breath, "Garfield, maybe." Later, Columbus discovers Tallahassee has been grieving for his young son, lost to the zombies, rather than his dog as he had earlier led Columbus to believe. Wichita nearly kisses Columbus, but fearing attachment, she leaves with Little Rock for Pacific Playland without warning. Columbus persuades a reluctant Tallahassee to follow in one of Murray's vehicles.

At Pacific Playland, Wichita and Little Rock activate all the rides and lights, attracting nearby hordes of zombies. A battle ensues, leaving the two trapped on a drop tower ride. Tallahassee and Columbus arrive just as the sisters' ammunition runs out. Tallahassee lures the zombies away, then locks himself in a game booth, shooting zombies at his leisure, while Columbus goes after the sisters. In gratitude for having been rescued, Wichita reveals her real name is Krista. Tallahassee eliminates the remaining zombies, then blissfully consumes a Twinkie that Little Rock has found. The group leaves Pacific Playland together after Little Rock and Witchita give the men a scare by pretending to leave them behind. Then, Columbus realizes he's finally found what he's been lacking: a family.


The film received critical acclaim. Review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes reports 90% of critics gave the film positive write-ups based on 184 reviews, with a rating of 7.3/10, and a generally positive 88% approval rating from "top" critics based on 29 reviews. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating to reviews from mainstream critics, the film holds a "generally favorable" score of 73% based on 31 reviews.

Film critic Roger Ebert was surprised by Zombieland's ability to be significantly humorous while zombies remained the focus of the film and felt that "all of this could have been dreary, but not here. The filmmakers show invention and well-tuned comic timing". He credited Bill Murray's cameo appearance as receiving the "single biggest laugh" of the year, and gave the film 3 out of 4 stars. Murray's cameo was called out for attention by other reviewers: Marc Savlov of Austin Chronicle credited it as "the single most outrageously entertaining unexpected celebrity cameo of any film—genre or otherwise—" that he had seen in a "long, long time" and that while the film did little to advance the genre, its smart script and high action made it very enjoyable. He categorized Zombieland as being "dead set against being dead serious" with its tonal pallor "having more in common with a foreshortened It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World than with 28 Days or Weeks Later".

The film's witty use of dialogue and popular culture was also praised by Ty Burr of The Boston Globe, who said the film "makes no claims to greatness" but that what it "has instead—in spades—is deliciously weary end-of-the-world banter"; Michael Ordona of Los Angeles Times praised director Fleischer for "bringing impeccable timing and bloodthirsty wit to the proceedings".

Some reviewers saw deeper levels in the plot and cinematography: cinematographer Michael Bonvillain was praised for capturing "some interesting images amid the post-apocalyptic carnival of carnage, as when he transforms the destruction of a souvenir shop into a rough ballet", while Stephanie Zacharek of said "the picture is beautifully paced" and highlighted "a halcyon middle section where, in what could be viewed as a sideways homage to Rebel Without a Cause, our rootless wanderers share a brief respite in an empty, lavish mansion".

Claudia Puig of USA Today said that "underlying the carnage in Zombieland is a sweetly beating heart", and that "This road movie/horror flick/dark comedy/earnest romance/action film hybrid laces a gentle drollness through all the bloody mayhem". Entertainment Weekly's Lisa Schwarzbaum concluded, "At the bone, Zombieland is a polished, very funny road picture shaped by wisenheimer cable-TV sensibilities and starring four likable actors, each with an influential following".

Josh Levin of Slate drew parallels with Adventureland: in both films Jesse Eisenberg tries to win over his dream girl, a girl who has been hardened by life, and both feature a theme park. He goes so far as to call the film "an undead Adventureland—a Pride and Prejudice and Zombies for the Facebook generation".

Time magazine's Richard Corliss described the film as "an exhilarating ride, start to finish" and reasoned "Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg set a high bar for this subgenre with Shaun of the Dead, but Reese, Werner and Fleischer may have trumped them". "This isn't just a good zombie comedy. It's a damn fine movie, period. And that's high praise, coming from a vampire guy", he stated.

Not all comparisons with Shaun of the Dead were favorable: Joshua Rothkopf of Time Out New York characterized the "extra injection of pop-culture neuroticism" as "the one innovation" of the film, declaring that while Zombieland was funny, it wasn't particularly scary and stated that it "simply isn't as witty as Shaun of the Dead, forever the yuks-meet-yucks standard". Similarly, The Globe and Mail's Rick Groen said "it's far more charming than chilling and way more funny than frightening", though he suggested that Rule No. 32 to 'enjoy the little things' was worth observing for a light comedy. Manohla Dargis of The New York Times classified the film as "a minor diversion dripping in splatter and groaning with self-amusement" and lamented the lack of a real plot more concrete than a series of comedy takes on zombie-slaying.

The Cast

Jesse Eisenberg as Columbus
 Woody Harrelson as Tallahassee
 Emma Stone as Wichita
 Abigail Breslin as Little Rock
 Amber Heard as 406
 Bill Murray as Himself

No comments:

Post a Comment