Friday, November 13, 2009

"Zombieland": finding zombie comedy jokes 'Shaun of the Dead' missed

When I first heard of "Zombieland" this spring, following an incident wherein Woody Harrelson punched a paprazzi photographer because he thought they were a zombie, I was intrigued. A zombie comedy, when we already had the superlative "Shaun of the Dead"? Could there be any zombie jokes that hadn't already been mined?

Surprisingly, yes.

"Zombieland" follows a young loner, Jesse Eisenberg ("Roger Dodger"), who has survived the zombie apocalypse because he's spent his life as a paranoid shut-in. He crosses paths with Woody Harrelson, a zombie-ass-kicking nut that is driven only by the search for Twinkies. They team up with the conning sisters Emma Stone ("Superbad") and Abigail Breslin ("Little Miss Sunshine") on their journey west to an amusement park, because, well, there's nowhere else to go. The journey and destination are filled with plenty of silly post-apocalyptic mayhem, from luring zombies out of hiding with a few recognizable strains on the banjo to destroying a store for the fun of it because nobody else is going to mind.

Although it's not really forging new territory in the zombie genre, "Zombieland" works because it is genuinely funny, due to both the writing and the cast. Woody Harrelson is as funny as he has ever been on screen, and Jesse Eisenberg likewise reminds us he wrote the book on being George Michael Bluth before anyone heard of Michael Cera. Emma Stone is charming and funny, and Abigail Breslin proves she can have a little edge on the screen. "School of Rock"/"Orange County" scribe Mike White has a funny bit as a gullible gas station attendant, and towards the end there's a surprise cameo that is, well, to die for.

"Zombieland" never commits the Cardinal Comedy Commandment: Thou Shalt Not Forget Thou Art a Comedy. Even when the requisite somber back stories of our heroes are revealed, the scenes end with a laugh. "Zombieland" also embodies the mantra "brevity is the soul of wit"; at scarcely 82 minutes, the movie isn't long enough for the jokes to wear thin, and as the credits roll, you can't help but ask for more.

TOO MUCH: there was one rule of survival aside that was ultimately pointless, other than to temporarily separate some of the characters. Boo.

COULD HAVE USED MORE: one liners from Woody

FILM SNOB NOTE: Try and miss the Twinkie connection with the surprise cast member. Don't check the IMDB page before you see the movie. Also, it's not joked about, but the irony of vegan/raw-food enthusiast Woody Harrelson wanting nothing from life but a Hostess Twinkie is
worth a chuckle.


IF YOU SAID THIS WAS YOUR FAVORITE MOVIE, I'D THINK: Aside from the zombies, it's not a mind-blowing movie (GET IT?), but at least it's a solid comedy.


  1. I enjoyed it. The surprise cameo was incredible but i thought the scene where they trashed all that native american shit was a little insensitive...

  2. That's fair - I didn't read the scene that way but it certainly could be. Regardless, super slo-mo and "Marriage of Figaro" was pretty fantastic.

  3. Speaking of slo-mo, by the way, the opening credit sequence is the most entertaining one I've seen in a long time.