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Overall Rating

Awesome: 21.84%
Worth A Look41.38%
Average: 8.05%
Pretty Bad: 17.24%
Total Crap: 11.49%

5 reviews, 57 user ratings

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by Erik Childress

"And Enjoy The Ride!"
4 stars

From the looks of things, Zombieland, was going to be a goofy non-stop string of creative quality kills. What else can you expect when you have characters self-aggrandizing their own execution prowess as the "zombie kill of the week" while Van Halen's Everybody Wants Some plays on the soundtrack? A number of smaller budget filmmakers have tried to meld horror and comedy, frequently with zombies, and many such efforts have come off as aggressively amateurish, trying too hard to sell their wink to the audience. Even now with a major studio backing, the prospect of a first-time director working from a script from writers whose major credits are direct-to-video sequels and reality shows are enough to lower expectations. Well - don't. Because the ads don't lie and they actually can't convey just how funny the film really is. Sure, they've included some of the big kills in the trailers but not the elements that truly kill.


That's a warning you need to know about up front. No worries about spoilers here. What you have likely already perused from just the title, the world has been overrun by zombies. At least the new kind - the fast kind - infected by a virus that gives you a fever and then a taste for human flesh. One of the few survivors is Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), named for his home of origin, and has avoided infection and death thanks to a notepad of rules he has created for himself. Some of these handy tips are laid out during a great pre-credits sequence and extended into the actual credits sequence that rivals Watchmen as the best of its kind this year. On the road, Columbus comes across Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), a loner whose passion for killing zombies is only challenged by his love of Twinkies which are in mysteriously short supply in the apocalypse.

The two team up while Columbus hitches a ride to his hometown in search of his family and during a supermarket slaughter they come across sisters, Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin). Having made their way before the outbreak as con artists, they are not too quick to trust these guys with guns into their lives. Eternal virgin, Columbus, can't help but take a liking to this aggressive vixen. Certainly a step up from his last chance at true love when his hot neighbor (Amber Heard) tried to eat him. The sisters are on their way to a Pacific coast theme park while everyone is hearing conflicting stories about the last haven of the uninfected. Not much more to say about the plot than that, but as Rule #32 tells us - you have to enjoy the little things.

Whether it be a good, graphic zombie kill or a particular line reading, Zombieland turns many enjoyable little things into a wide spectrum of near-endless joy. Columbus' rules continue to invaluably pop up in situations from outrunning maneaters to taking pleasure in stress-relieving destruction. We take a brief aside to hear stories of the "zombie kill of the week" and even get to see one (unfortunately spoiled in trailers). Flashbacks into their previous lives range from the scary to the downright absurd to unexpectedly touching. Based on the early scenes we don't expect to get pulled into an emotional connection with these goofballs, but the film somehow finds a way to pull back enough to give them a pit stop where our interest in their survival instantly triples.

There's something very sweet about Columbus' hope in courting Wichita and as inhabited by Eisenberg and Stone, there's never a moment where we doubt their feelings and pause. Stone, who continues to evolve into one of our best young comic actresses, is the one who made us believe she could fall in love with Superbad's Jonah Hill. Eisenberg already has experience with both carnivals and zombies this year, having wooed Kristen Stewart in Adventureland and unfortunately is measured under the same awkward teen mannerisms that Michael Cera has been getting all the credit for of late. (See 2002's Roger Dodger to witness who was doing it first.) But he's absolutely perfect for this role, finding new ways to vent his frustration over the unlucky breaks he keeps getting with Wichita. His subtle reaction to discovering her preference in boys gets one of the best laughs in the film. This is prime Woody Harrelson too, melding the cocky psychosis of his more insane characters with the charming idiocy of his performances from Kingpin and The Grand. Abigail Breslin doesn't get quite as much to do in the film other than try to act well above her age, but seeing her try to describe a popular kids show to Harrelson while not knowing who Gandhi is more than makes up for it.

Her role in the film, nevertheless, is equally important in an underlying theme that is slyly worked into the mayhem - and that is the ability to maintain one's childlike innocence in the face of horror. Something that the upcoming adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's The Road (let alone the book itself) failed to do. The trip towards the amusement park is described as a treat for young Little Rock, a place she went to as a kid - something "she hasn't been in a long time." Columbus frequently regresses into a post-pubescent lad with a crush on a pretty girl, not thinking about sex so much but what it would be like to brush hair over their ear. Tallahassee's past reveals more about what he's lost than we originally thought, but to see his eyes light up at the very mention of one of his childhood heroes and to subsequently reenact one of their movies like a kid with an action figure sums up why Zombieland is more than just another wannabe horror/comedy. That and being able to pull off what may be the greatest cameo in film history. Again - DO NOT GO TO IMDB.COM - and anyone who dares spoils it should be treated just like one of the film's zombies even if they don't have a brain.

Contemplating whether to give Zombieland the highest rating after the final coda (staying through the end credits is a must!) seemed a bit easier, but just a few bumps along the road knock it back a bit. Hardly to be faulted for concentrating on the laughs more than the scares, it's still surprising that Columbus' irritable bowel syndrome never comes into play despite being established several times early on. Faster than you can say "Not those lights, you little asshole!", one character is turning on a park full of lights for all of Zombieland to see. Also it seems unfathomable that characters in this situation, especially ones who have been around long enough to know better, would decide to pull a prank on a kid with a gun who has a rule about "double tapping" (or not worrying about wasting bullets to make sure your enemy is dead.) It would have been far funnier to simply see an introduction gone horribly wrong and, as is, remains maybe the one misstep that debut director Ruben Fleischer makes in his timing. As is though, Zombieland is 82 minutes of sheer giddiness, funnier than most straight comedies and is certainly a worthy complement to Shaun of the Dead. It's been a while since I walked out of a film immediately hoping for a sequel. With a little word of mouth, maybe audiences can help make that happen. Despite films like Transformers and G.I. Joe cleaning up at the box office, Zombieland, despite its earned R-rating, is the one true film this year that reminds us of what its like to be a kid at the movies.

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originally posted: 10/02/09 14:00:00
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: Fantastic Fest 2009 For more in the Fantastic Fest 2009 series, click here.

User Comments

9/25/13 David Hollingsworth A fresh and fun take on the zombie film. 5 stars
5/30/11 RLan Who would have thought it! A fun movie about zombies. 4 stars
2/19/11 art IT MAKES you SICK!!!!,or cause you to, choke on your POPCORN! 1 stars
1/02/11 Jessica Canavan I'm a geek and proud of it, but this film was just horrid; gross and not funny. 2 stars
11/29/10 mr.mike Grinds to a halt once they arrive at BM's, 3 stars
10/09/10 robzomby shaun of the dead it ain't. poor choices for the female leads 2 stars
9/21/10 art NOT BAD,but all ROMERO zombies flick's from NOTD to LOTD STINK!!!! 3 stars
8/10/10 Chad Dillon Cooper Limp Shaun of the dead zomcom. 2 stars
3/30/10 aperson A very funny film. You Sir are a troll. 5 stars
3/15/10 Mathew poop, really disappointed 1 stars
3/14/10 chris Holy crap, that was a boring movie. Just some kids babbling in a car. 1 stars
3/13/10 johnny The people that made this are rich, and your an internet film critic, need i say more? 1 stars
3/11/10 Richard Brandt I liked the tone shift when after the surprise cameo came an even more stunning revelation. 4 stars
3/03/10 Stanley Thai A very funny film with a sincere and humane side to it. 4 stars
2/26/10 Brian Expected low review from someone who gave the Twilight movies a better grade than Iron Man. 4 stars
2/07/10 art NOT BAD,but white ZOMBIE and ZomBIE,take the CAKE! 3 stars
1/14/10 Mike It's been years since I turned off a movie part-way through. Utter crap. 1 stars
12/29/09 art IF YOU HAVE A WEIRD SENSE OF HUMOR,this is your MOVIE! 3 stars
12/26/09 Chad Dillon Cooper Hollywood Hostess twinkie comedy. No wonder it was a big hit. 1 stars
12/15/09 geo Absolutely awful. Nothing remotely funny in it. 1 stars
12/12/09 anon Holy shit i'm sick of film critics over analysing every movie they come across. Funny movie 5 stars
12/11/09 Willie Stroker Your mums fundamentally lazy and witless you retard this is a 5 star movie 5 stars
12/10/09 David A. This intentionally corny-to-excess film takes spoofing to a whole new level. 3 stars
12/05/09 Sarah Hilarious film, I enjoyed it. This review does the movie absolutely no justice. It's great! 4 stars
12/02/09 Wilson Parasiuk Review is on. Why does this movie fair well with audiences? 1 stars
11/30/09 Kyaa FUNNY MOVIE! (if you have 15yo or less, otherwise its a borring shiet) 3 stars
11/29/09 Scuba Steve Funny movie. Similiar to"Zombie Survival Guide" 5 stars
11/29/09 Aaron Commareri Great Bloody Fun! 5 stars
11/22/09 green meanie some people don't understand things they can't pigeonhole.. like this critic 4 stars
11/19/09 jon Wow. Somebody really doesnt like nerds. Thanks for insulting WoW gamers everyware. jerk. 5 stars
11/10/09 Bill Ripkin I'm appreciating how everyone giving this movie positive feedback sounds like a 12 year old 1 stars
11/09/09 Jonathan Borthwick Other than the "celebrity" bash, your review was very accurate. Movie was pointless. 1 stars
11/07/09 LH Disappointing in that none of the key characters were eaten 2 stars
11/07/09 shane how are you a film critic? you have no clue lol 4 stars
11/03/09 Dave You're looking for social and political commentary? You REALLY missed the point... 5 stars
11/03/09 KingNeutron I liked it - good casting + performances -- definitely hoping for a sequel! 4 stars
10/29/09 Dudebro This movie was better then Shawn! Shawn had to much bland comedy. 5 stars
10/28/09 Shaun Your life must really suck. Have you ever laughed? I'll be not. 5 stars
10/27/09 Aaron One of the best zombie movies yet. This guy doesn't know what he is talking about. 5 stars
10/26/09 Jon You are fundamentally lazy and witless. Next time actually watch the movie you review! 5 stars
10/25/09 alex the film was tuly amazing. i don't know how you can give it such a bad review. 5 stars
10/18/09 Paul A completely enjoyable and hilarious film followed up by a terrible review. 5 stars
10/18/09 Dude Could have been better but not muvh 4 stars
10/17/09 ThisMovie WasGreat, I don't think you actually paid attention, because you're missing many points. 5 stars
10/16/09 tim my favorite zombie movie by far. this reviewer is an idiot and should be shot. they are pro 5 stars
10/15/09 Big Ben only watch if you looking a witless movie with underdeveloped characters 2 stars
10/15/09 Hart Joanie liked it on her smoke break. Good enough for me. 3 stars
10/15/09 Excellence This doesn't even compare to Shaun of the Dead. 2 stars
10/13/09 Pip enjoy the simple things in life laugh a little think less why else watch a movie? 5 stars
10/13/09 BOB Crap review. I don't lool to Zombie movies for social & political commentry, try the news. 4 stars
10/13/09 Collin Great review! thank you for not buying into the hype 2 stars
10/13/09 jake i didnt know movie critics had all that much more of a life compared to those who play WoW 5 stars
10/12/09 Tg You must be a blast at parties... 4 stars
10/07/09 The Grinch Mr. Childress, thanks for not giving away one of the coolest scenes, unlike IMabigDumBass 5 stars
10/06/09 Man Out 6 Bucks Felt unscripted: merely ad-libbed as the film rolled. A TV movie with a big screen budget. 2 stars
10/06/09 MARIA WILLIG One of the funniest films this year! 4 stars
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  02-Oct-2009 (R)
  DVD: 02-Feb-2010


  DVD: 02-Feb-2010

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