Monday, October 5, 2009

President of Zombieland

Shaun of the Dead, while excellent, lacked a certain something. It was gory, like a good zombie movie should be. It was funny, like a good comedy should be. It featured someone getting hit in the head with a dart, which, like, obviously.

Now, let's turn the class's attention to Zombieland. It had Woody Harrelson, which makes any movie better. Woody Harrelson goes on to say "You got a purty mouth" to a zombiefied redneck, which, like, obviously. And it referenced Babe in one the best non-goodbye scenes I've ever witnessed. Plus! Not to spoiler the central third of the movie, but the cameo that shows up is legendary.

The critics have been generally positive: thankfully, most of them understand that Zombieland is a big rompy road trip through the heart Zomberica. The New York Times tragically elected not to get the joke, instead referencing concentration camps and being a total snooze about the movie. Seriously, if you're going to review movies like Zombieland, don't send a gal who's going to actually take it, you know, seriously.

Because while Zombieland isn't exactly going to top the Oscar nominations this year (although I would love it if it did), it does achieve what it sets out to do: namely, kick ass in the morning and take names in the evening.

First of all, there's there's a lot of gore. Not just blood, either. Ever wonder what your Achilles tendon might look if it was ripped out by way of someone's teeth? Zombieland can tell you. Curious about why you should wear your seatbelt, even as bloodthirsty children try to eat you? Zombieland has your answer. Where Shaun of the Dead was lighter on the blood, Zombieland is basically washing its hair with it.

Secondly, it's funny in an American way. The jokes are broad, referencing pop culture (Titanic, the aforementioned Babe) and a lot of the humor comes from pairing the hyperactive and wild-eyed Harrelson with the slightly (okay, totally) neurotic and used-to-being-lonely Jesse Eisenberg. That doesn't make it bad. Their relationship grows and shifts, which is normal until you remember that you're watching a movie about zombies.

Zombieland succeeds because it remembers that, post-zombocalypse, people aren't just going to turn into ass-kicking supersoldiers with Berettas for hands and grunting standing in for talking. Shy college dudes are just going to be shy college dudes who now tote shotguns, that's all. In Zombieland, people still need families - maybe now more than ever, since their original fam has been most likely devoured by the undead. Trust issues aren't just going to run in these new families; they'll practically gallop. And proficiency with a firearm is non-negotiable, even if it does lead to some particularly post-NRA father-daughter bonding.

It's become clear that the standard to which Zombieland would be held is Shaun of the Dead, but the two can co-exist in relative harmony. In fact, the two are almost opposite in effect: Shaun starts off slow and emotion-driven, and builds to rousing fight sequences. Zombieland starts off the action with a lot of, well, action, and then lets the characters build and flow. It works, even as you marvel at Harrelson's gigantic arms, because Zombieland wants the post-zombie America to be a place where, even if you lose everything, you still get both a family and a chance to crack wise about Caddyshack.

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