Tuesday, March 13, 2012


The Action Mutant…
always makes sure to double tap.


review by Joe Burrows

The Plot, as it was:
Jessie Eisenberg (The Social Network) is Columbus (the main characters are billed after their hometowns), a chronically phobic nerd amongst the landscape of "Zombieland". A strain of Mad Cow Disease has turned the majority of people into mindless flesh eaters and Columbus (complete with rules of survival at his disposal) is one of the lucky ones. By chance, he meets Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), a slightly crazed traveler who loves his zombie killin' as much as Twinkies. They are soon befriended (then conned, befriended, then conned again) by Wichita (Emma Stone) & Little Rock (Abigail Breslin), a sister team that hustles rubes from one point to the next. Along the way, they kill zombies, meet a comedy icon...and kill more zombies. It all ends at an amusement park, by the way.

Don’t shoot me…I’m only the reviewer!:
Out of all the heavy elements a movie can have, plot is not one for Zombieland. Then again, a plot might take away from what makes it so fun. This flick is nothing more than pure, escapist fun and knows it. Hell, I know people that don't go for "zombie" pics and love this one. A lot of the film gets by on the strength of the two leads and their rapport with their female counterparts. Eisenberg (what? was Michael Cera busy? I kid, really) can play this neurotic wallflower part in his sleep and Harrelson's crazy man act is in full tilt mode here. Stone & Breslin account themselves well for what could usually be thankless roles and they can attribute that to characterization. This was once a TV pilot script that was reworked into a feature film and you get the sense that all of these people were meant to be "introduced" like in a pilot so the result is more fully fleshed out characters you can root for. The other pilot elements are scattershot (the "Zombie Kill of the Week" being the most obvious) and the celebrity cameo in the middle portion (other reviews have spoiled it by now but I stay steadfast in not revealing), while providing the biggest laughs of the film, also acts as the plateau. Things become more predictable afterwards and the story fails to regain the momentum it once had. The film is also a bit uneven in the sense that the comedic elements tend to outweigh the "zombie" elements at some points, which leads to the genre purist's argument of whether this a "real" Z movie or not. If you can take some of the film's pretensions (Columbus' rules appearing on the screen at various times), you will see plentiful gore as well as a genuine streak of laughter & gleeful carnage. It's no Night of the Living Dead but if cinema has taught us anything, it's that you don't always have to reinvent the wheel to get to the fireworks fact...er, amusement park.

Character/Supporting Actor Sighting!:
- John C. Reilly (Step Brothers, State of Grace) went uncredited as the "Bathroom Zombie".
- Screenwriter Mike White (The School of Rock, Nacho Libre) is the victim in said bathroom (wow, that sounds bad without context).

Body Count/Violence: 109! Despite its goofiness, Zombieland does not skimp on the gore factor. Most of the mindless extras are blasted by shotgun fire or other automatic weaponry. When he's not gunning them down, Tallahassee does in the rest by unconventional means (baseball bat, banjo, hedge clippers, etc.). There are a few other surprises but something that isn't surprising is the zombie flesh munching & mauling, to which there is quite a bit.

Sexuality/Nudity: A topless zombie stripper (with pasties) is shown during the opening credits.

Language/Dialogue: A few F-words, other obscenities and Tallahassee crowing about wanting his "G D Twinkies!"

How bad was it?:
Rotten Tomatoes has it at 90% so its fair to say that most critics enjoyed it for the good time it was meant to be. The few negative reviews either weren't down with the genre or couldn't help but compare it to its predecessors in some way.

Did it make the studio’s day?:
At a budget of $24 million, Sony/Columbia Pictures released Zombieland on 10/2/09 to an opening weekend gross of $24.7 million. It's top spot was overtaken the next week and it steadily dropped out of the top 10 by the end of the month. The film finished with a final number of $75.6 million in America, plus another $26.8 million overseas (total = $102.4 million). All of those totals ensure a sequel, which is in development at the moment.

Film: ***1/2/*****
Entertainment value: ****1/2/*****

Copyright 2012 The Action Mutant.

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