A note to the weak of heart: You may think that “Zombieland” is just typical slasher material, but rest assured that Hollywood has finally made a zombie movie that reaches far beyond its sadistic fan base by taking advantage of our society’s love for the darker side of humor. Most viewers will inevitably love “Zombieland” because it simultaneously stirs in them the two emotions they most love to feel: amusement and disgust.
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The movie attempts sensory overload from its inception, lambasting the unsuspecting audience with images of zombie brutality to give the false impression that the next two hours will feature pervasive violence with limited character development. The introduction is a sort of informational montage on zombie evasion: The hopelessly awkward protagonist known only as Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg, “The Squid and the Whale”) explains that, when the zombie infection began to spread, “the first ones to go were the fatties.”
Because of the inherent dangers in a zombie-tainted society, one must now retain an internal set of “rules” (a significant motif that reappears throughout the movie) pertaining to avoiding and, if necessary, exterminating zombies. Columbus spends the remainder of the film navigating the zombie-filled dystopia armed with only these rules and his hopes of finding his only remaining kin in central Ohio.
But this solitary, gun-slinging hero couldn’t properly entertain us without a supporting cast of equally eccentric acquaintances. “Zombieland” also features Woody Harrelson (“Natural Born Killers”) as Tallahassee, Emma Stone (“The House Bunny”) as Wichita, Abigail Breslin (“Little Miss Sunshine”) as Little Rock, as well as a hilarious cameo. Oh, and if you couldn’t tell, the people in “Zombieland” only refer to one another by destination to avoid emotional attachment. How delightfully dehumanizing.
The best part of the film is its ability to blend conflicting ideas into a single, balanced composition. For example, “Zombieland” employs significant character development that can happily co-exist with the guilty pleasure of witnessing (literally) gut-wrenching acts of violence. It maintains the breakneck speed reminiscent of a classic shoot-’em-up arcade game without seeming confusing or poorly consolidated. It even manages significance without having to take itself seriously — this should come as a breath of fresh air to critics beleaguered by the steady stream of piss-poor films that think they’ve earned a right to exist just because they have a conscience. And it’s prudent to mention that this work of genius is the directorial debut of Ruben Fleischer, who has scarcely any previous directorial experience short of a few episodes of “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” Congratulations are most definitely in order.
Needless to say, this movie is worth its weight in U.S. currency — $25 million on its opening weekend, to be exact. The only possible detractor from the fun is the inconsequential nature of the movie’s content; it’s nearly impossible to make a masterpiece within the confines of the zombie genre. But the rest of the film is so fun that this minor problem is easy to overlook. Oh, and fuck clowns.