Finding an interesting movie in the month or so before holiday season releases can be a bit of a challenge. I saw 9 a week ago and being the science fictional gal I am, when fellow writer Rhea Rose wanted to see a movie, we got it down to Where the Wild Things Are and Zombieland. For whatever reason, I decided that I’d rather see Zombieland.
We went to Silver City in Coquitlam, one of the most stupidly designed theaters, as parking lots go. It’s like a maze and some rows blocked so you have to backtrack or cross over the road that cars enter from, to get to the other side. This inefficient design takes up space that could have been used for parking. Let me tell you, if you had to run over zombies, you’d never get up enough speed and they’d take you down for sure. So stay out of badly designed movie parking lots.
Now the movie, which has a brilliant opener, with the narrator, who we don’t know quite yet, and slo-mo pastiches of people turning zombie and chomping on their friends and family. First there was mad cow, then mad people, then mad zombie, and so it began, spreading across the country and maybe the world. But for this movie it is in the ole U.S. of A and there is no saving the country because it’s too late (so much for flu preparedness). In fact, so destroyed by zombies is it that there are few people left alive and one is our narrator, a young, geeky college guy with few social skills and a lot of neurosis, including irritable bowel syndrome (probably from those pizza and Mountain Dew he lives on.) He is known as Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), an unlikely survivor of the zombie apocalypse, partly because of his fastidious rules, (always wear a seatbelt, check the back seat, double tap, etc.) which are often demonstrated in other zombie encountering clashes.
He meets Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), a lean, mean, zombie killing machine who has two goals in a world depleted of humanity: to kill zombies and find a Twinkie, which, he says, has an expiration date despite popular belief. Tallahassee names Columbus and then two others they meet, the femme fatale Wichita (Emma Stone) and her little sister, Little Rock (Abigail Breslin). Why they have these names and don’t just say I’m Sarah, I’m Fred, is never explained. I mean, it’s not like they have to hide their identities in a world lacking humans, law and order. But that’s just one of the many thin patches on this barely held-together plot. Columbus is looking for…who knows but he’s like every person, trying to stay alive, despite the odds. Wichita and Little Rock are trying to get to the West Coast to the mythical Playland, which is supposed to be free of zombies.
Who told these people about this zombie free land? After all, there’s no one left to spread a rumor. Not that the zombies would encourage the meat to get away. Oh and the zombies. Well they are the most wholesome zombies I’ve ever seen. By wholesome I mean they seem to have all their limbs and haven’t been chawed apart, except for that initial chomp. But then as the zombie virus spreads it seems they all get bruised looking eyes, blood and gore on their faces and they spit blackish or green gorp from their mouths, which might be blood or rotting guts or who knows. Now these zombies aren’t the shambling creatures of other movies. They’re fast and can run (the fatties went first, says Columbus. Rule #1 is cardio.) and they seem to think to a degree, like wily animals, being able to smash in windows. But at other times they shamble, heads askew, wrists limp, legs at odd angles. I’m not sure why.
The zombies are also attracted to bright lights and sound and of course they want fresh meat. But with so few bodies around (a lack of extras or money for special effects), I wonder how it’s much of a problem to avoid them. And what do they eat if they’ve eaten all of the living? Well, one scene shows a zombie chomping on her “manwich” and drinking the marrow from his bones. If that’s the case, it seems that when all of the humans were gone and only zombies were left they’d turn on each other, but instead there are numbers of them waiting to congregate on our unsuspecting heroes.
When there are cars and keys and homes with food, plus stores abounding, why is it that Little Rock and Wichita have to steal a car from Columbus and Tallahassee? If they’ve survived this long, they should be able to figure out how to get a free car, not to mention,outwitting mindless zombies would be harder than two men. So this unlikely plot thread throws our four nuts together. Columbus has feelings for Wichita which she rejects at first, but Tallahassee is older and weird. And Columbus really has no choice, if Wichita is the last woman alive (her sister being too young). Boy meets girl with a tag along “uncle” and sister in a land of zombies. Hmmm.
SPOILER ALERT. There is a gratuitous Bill Murray scene, which has the least well-planned out skit of the movie. Another rule: don’t dress up as a zombie if you’re not and try to scare people used to shooting zombies. All I can figure is that either Bill Murray put money behind this movie or they asked to use his house and he said sure, but I get a cameo. Of course, he is a legendary comic too.
This plot was very very thin, to the point that we came out of the movie going errr, where was the plot, but it was funny. And that’s just it. The one liners and the hilarious skits are timed very well and the actors all hold their own. Overall it’s a vehicle for Harrelson and we agreed he actually looked pretty good all buffed up. The unlikely teamup of the anal-retentive geek and the hard-edged badass work well and the pacing is good for this rather short movie. How long can you stretch out a zombie-chasing-human story anyways? I would give this a 6 out of 10 for the lameass zombies and gore, and the lacklustre plot, but the humor and the comedy hold this together and had us laughing out loud. So I’ll give it a 7 6.5 because of the good acting and the funny skits along the way to who knows where. The motto could be, family is who you pick.