Program Notes: Zombieland (2009)
It’s a fun-house ride fueled by surprisingly good performances, droll dialogue and quite possibly the greatest cameo performance of all time.
Is it significant?
Is it meaningful?
Does it stretch the vocabulary of the cinema?
Like I said, it’s fun.
Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network) plays skinny, nerdy, in-way-over-his-head Columbus (all the characters are named after their home towns), who has managed to survive the first few weeks of a zombie apocalypse by adhering to a few simple rules.
He actually shares these rules with us with the help of animated graphics and voiceover narration.
There is, for example, his devotion to cardio exercise. Since fatties were the first to be gobbled up (these are Zack Synder-type “fast” zombies), Columbus has devoted himself to working out daily to ensure he can outrun the ugly brutes.
He always checks the back seat before getting into his car. Zombies like to lurk in back seats.
And he’s a firm believer in the “double tap.” By which he means that after putting down a zombie, he always follows up with a head shot. Just to make sure.
Columbus’ goal is to get to his parents in Ohio. Along the way he teams up with Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), a macho-heavy zombie-hating cowboy (who seems to have seen too many Mad Max movies) on a mission to find the world’s last remaining Twinkie (he’s addicted to those spongy treats).
Early on they meet a couple of sisters (Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin) who seem to be maidens in distress but are actually very sneaky. The girls are determined to pay a last visit to an L.A. amusement park that was special to their childhoods. The virginal Columbus dreams of a meaningful relationship with the older sibling.
Mostly Zombieland is a yuk-filled orgy of grotesque kills (think the Three Stooges with blood bags) and smart (aleck-y) dialogue.
First-time feature director Rueben Fleischer does a fine job of juggling mayhem and merriment. And even though his four protagonists are probably the last people on Earth, he makes us laugh at their situation.
About the Author
Robert W. Butler is a lifelong Kansas City area resident, a graduate of Shawnee Mission East High School and the William Allen White School of Journalism at the University of Kansas. For several decades he was the movie editor of the Kansas City Star; he now writes a movie-themed blog at butlerscinemascene.com. He's married to the former Ellen Vaughan; they are the proud parents of LA-based comedian, writer, director and TV personality Blair Butler. He used to be a dog person but now lives with two cats, thus demonstrating the flexibility of the human condition.