A road comedy with some bite

12 Oct

One would expect a film about bloodthirsty undead monsters to be riddled with cheap shots and clichés, as we’ve seen zombie movies for a good thirty years. But the genre is far from dead, as evidenced by one of this year’s best comedies, “Zombieland.”

The movie follows Columbus, a recent college graduate with problems with paranoia, played by Jesse Eisenberg, and Tallahassee, a gun-wielding tough guy with a strange fetish for Twinkies, played marvelously by Woody Harrelson. Along their travels they get duped by sisters Wichita and Little Rock, played by Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin. Eventually they all team up against the zombies, and then laughter ensues.

What made this zom com different from other zom coms was that they all had a plan. In fact, all the characters nicknames came from their goal destination. The film started out presenting Columbus’ rules for surviving zombieland – including “cardio,” “beware of bathrooms,” and “doubletap,” just to name a few, and you get to see how unlikely of a hero Columbus is. Sure, Eisenberg is playing pretty much the same character as he did in “Adventureland,” but here he isn’t as pitiful. I mean, he’s fighting off zombies with a double barrel shotgun. And his love interest Wichita, is pretty badass herself, conspiring with her 12-year-old sister Little Rock to hijack both of the cars Columbus and Tallahassee acquire.

What’s also different from other zombie movies is how wonderful this movie was shot. The opening credits play over a backdrop of artfully crafted slow-motion zombie pursuits, blood spewing from their mouths, and a manic deadness in their eyes. In terms of an extra, being a zombie would be a pretty fun gig if you ask me. Somehow throughout the director found these barren locations to shoot as the empty wasteland that is zombieland. Los Angeles couldn’t have actually been Los Angeles. There would have been no way they could have cleared out that much space to make it look authentic. And if they did, kudos to them. Bravo.

But let’s talk about Woody Harrelson. Being the versatile actor that he is, Harrelson was at the heart of this film’s quirkiness. His treatment of zombie killing as sport, his constant quest for a Twinkie, and his laugh-out-loud dialogue brings this zom com to much more than just that. His motto, “nut up or shut up,” could be perhaps the most true slogan of bravery we’ve heard in a film in a long time. As well as the last line in the film, “not bad for a whiney little spitfuck.” He provided a lot of the cackling within the theater. But my favorite was “I’m not good with goodbyes, so…that’ll do pig.”

The best portion of the film was largely attributed to a certain cameo that the filmmakers tried to keep quiet. In honor of the element of surprise, I won’t spoil who it is here, but when reading about the cameo, director Ruben Fleischer said that he originally wanted to have Patrick Swayze make an appearance and do a “Dirty Dancing” sequence, but that option fell through. Other options were Sylvester Stallone, Kevin Bacon and Matthew McConaughey. Personally, whom they got for the scene-stealing cameo is way funnier than all of the other guys they considered. You won’t be disappointed.

As much as “Zombieland” was a comedy about mutilating zombies, it was also a love story – about Columbus and Wichita, and also about the family unit that the four of them build while they’re running towards the unknown human sanctuary. There is a very tender moment when the four travelers shack up in a Hollywood mansion where Tallahassee breaks down and cries when talking about his family. And as far as other humans go, the audience never gets to see if there are any other people left, but after the epic shootout in the movie’s climax, you can’t help but feel like it’s a victory for the living.

The last time I enjoyed a zombie movie this much was the British comedy “Shaun of the Dead,” but by the end of “Zombieland,” I honestly worried about any of them dying. Fleischer opted not to have unimportant secondary characters that will die anyway, in favor of building the story of the four main characters to where you really cared about Columbus, Tallahassee, Wichita and Little Rock.

And to tell you the truth, by the end of the movie, I was really craving a Twinkie.

❤ Abby
(check this out in this week's Ledger on tuesday.)

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One Response to “A road comedy with some bite”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Action Flick Chick - » Zombieland: Time to Nut Up or Shut Up (Movie Chicks on Horror Flicks) - 10/13/2009

    […] This Is a Tangent. Post: A road comedy with some bite by Abby: “Fleischer opted not to have unimportant secondary characters that will die anyway, […]

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