Limber up, it’s one of the rules if you’re going to survive Zombieland, and not pull a muscle from laughing so hard. While Columbia Pictures’ film might revolve around the undead, what awaits you is an action-comedy that could easily be described as Shaun of the Dead meets Superbad, or for comic book fans, think “The Walking Dead” with laughs.
In the screenplay by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, the world is now overrun by zombies, and Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg from Adventureland) is in search of his family when is comes across Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), who is headed in the same direction. When making a pit stop at a grocery store, they’re conned by two young girls, Wichita (Emma Stone from Superbad) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin from Little Miss Sunshine), whom eventually join them in their trip west.
First and foremost, what makes Zombieland one of the best movies this year is the in-depth characterizations. The screenplay builds a mythology around these characters that aren’t just there to keep them from all acting alike, but also to provide comic relief throughout the entire film. For example, the film opens with the neurotic, terrified and OCD laden Columbus, who has turned his intense fear of the outside world into “rules”. These rules keep him alive, while entertaining the audience to no end. The rules find a way of being referenced on multiple occasions, each time more hilarious than the first. Then there’s Tallahassee, who is an intense, testosterone-fueled madman who is in search of one thing… a Twinkie. Then there’s Wichita and Little Rock, two sisters who have lived a con’s life, and are using their skills to stay alive. This is the core of Zombieland, as big FX pieces and action are only sprinkles of salt next to the masterful screenplay.
Speaking of action, the movie opens with Columbus trying to find a safe place to take a dump, which leads to an intense and hilarious situation that sets the horses off running. Zombieland is fast-paced and never, ever slows down. The pacing is dead on, and even in moments of revelation and/or serious heartfelt times, there are jokes and a sense of urgency that keeps the audience engaged from start to finish. While most of the action comes from running and screaming, there are plenty of gunshots fired, and blood splattered across the cement.
The replay value of Ruben Fleischer’s film is extraordinary. Unlike many films these days, I can see myself watching Zombieland on multiple occasions. Not only does it live in the same universe as Superbad, but it also has quite possibly one of the all-time funniest scenes ever thanks to Bill Murray (I’m going to leave this as vague as possible, go see it). Fleischer’s film is beautifully shot (his slow-mo sequences are stunning), engaging, funny, heartfelt and more importantly F-U-N. If you’re looking for a movie that has it all, Zombieland is a season pass worth picking up.