In the near future, the majority of the population of the United States has turned into a flesh-feeding mass due to a freakish incident that I would not dare to give away. We first meet the neurotic Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), who up till now has only survived thanks to his long list of rules that often find themselves strategically placed on screen as they come into play, such as the use of seatbelts, cardio, and the better safe than sorry double-tap. For Columbus, survival is a lonely road, but one that eventually leads him to Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), who loves killing zombies about as much as they love eating people (though I suppose his love of Twinkies ranks highest on the scale). Adding another type of tension to the group is Wichita (Emma Stone), with her sister and copilot in con-artistry, Little Rock (Abigail Breslin). With a loose agreement that it is better to travel as a group, they set out, each hoping to survive long enough to reach their intended destination.
For a movie so adamant on pushing the ridiculous, it is far from pigeonholing itself as just another empty comedy leaning into the iffy spoof genre. Instead, among the laughs there is actually a lot of substance, including dynamic character relationships that in any other situation probably would fail horribly, heartstring tugging, character driving forces and dramatic turns, and tension fraught moments.
But let’s face it, these are just added bonuses that surprise the viewing audience. What everyone’s actually wanting is to laugh until it hurts, which is exactly what happens, and consistently so at that. Once the opening scenes of the spreading zombie outbreak pass, along with the slow-motion and gruesome gore displayed that makes you wonder if laughing out loud is really worth the risk of throwing up instead, the film settles down into a strong pace and solid blend of character development, comedy, and some pretty dumb decisions. As in groan inducing, “we’ll be safer if we split up” moments, or the apparent one use per weapon then throw it away rule. The kind of dumb decision that, had this been a full-blown horror film, would have been deal breakers, but here they just add to the fun. After all, if you stick with a gun for too long how will you ever know how great beating someone up with a banjo can be? Though I will say that it never gets old seeing Breslin totting a gun around.
Thanks to the blend of both zombie film and comedic elements, Zombieland turns out to be one of my favorite films of the year.
Final Grade: A