Zombieland is unexpectedly funny.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. So what. It’s a zombie movie and zombie movies have pretty-much run their course. Right?
They aren’t that cool anyway. Pre-George Romero zombies weren’t all that scary. Since Romero’s Night of the Living Dead they haven’t scored very high for heart-stopping fright either. Zombie plots pretty much meld together these days. One is interchangeable with another. Romero continues to be the king of the genre, but even he is out of ideas.
When you’re out of ideas, twist the genre.
Zombieland is a twist on the genre twist. In 2004, Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright did Shaun of the Dead. It quickly became a cult favorite, is a complete crack-up and probably the second-best zombie movie ever. Horror never works better or is more believable than when combined with comedy.
To test the theory, a TV director and two guys — one of whose only familiar screenwriting credits is Monsters, Inc. “additional material” — cranked out Zombieland, a no-holds-barred, hilarious romp through an apocalypse.
The plot is the usual: Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg (Adventureland), Emma Stone (The House Bunny) and kid acting whiz Abigail Breslin play characters trying to find other humans and a safe-haven from the zombies.
Eisenberg’s character sets the stage. He has a how-to-stay-alive rule for everything. Each time something dangerous happens, up pops the rule and you see how it applies on screen.
They are really funny, and the gag works.
Harrelson is one of the best head-case character actors of all-time. He’s in his element as a near-psychopathic zombie killer. His testosterone machismo mixes well with Eisenberg’s lack of cojones. Eisenberg — unfortunately — is a zombie of a different kind. He’s actually an excellent young actor with the misfortune of having the same on-screen personality as the increasingly boring Michael Sera.
Stone and Breslin have a blast playing the guys-are-so-dumb routine. They’re devious sisters willing to do anything to survive — including ripping off the two guys, not once but twice.
Though Zombieland won’t have you laughing so hard you drool on your chin or are in danger of snarfing, snorting or making other near-obscene sounds, it is creative, has terrific dialogue and a near perfect cameo from a surprise celebrity.
Give this one a bite of your weekend movie bucks.
Rated R for gore, violence and language. It opens Friday, October 2 at the Carmike 12 and at Fairchild Cinemas 12.
Mr. Movie rating: 4 1/2 stars
Rated PG-13 for mature themes. It opens today at the Columbia Mall 8 and at Fairchild Cinemas.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on video.
2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.