The University of Florida, being on a pan-handle with nowhere to run, was recently thoughtful enough to include in their on-line instructions dealing with hurricanes and pandemics, a section on what to do in case the area was attacked by zombies, or as they put it, "life-impaired individuals."
The section was quickly expunged.
Some folks have no sense of humor.
It's a good thing "Zombieland" does. Ruben Fleischer's zombie comedy has traded knife-sharp horror timing for sledge-hammer comedy timing, and the results are giddy, gory ghastly fun. At some point, the gangly slavering zombies just become targets and rarely are posed as threats and become merely a means to many grisly perforated punch-lines. The result of a fast-food outbreak of mad cow disease ("then mad human, then mad zombie" relates the film's geeky narrator "Columbus"), the flesh consuming zombies pass on the disease to their victims, and so on, ad nauseum.* Our narrator is on a one-man trek from his college room in Austin, Texas to try to find his parents in Columbus, Ohio, dodging zombies who are fast, but not very bright (at one point, he evades them by just running around a deserted parking lot in a circle, while they slavishly chase him like...zombies). Walking the highways with his carry-all on wheels he meets up with another fellow human, a rough-neck, well-armed and driving a Cadillac Escalante, and they pool their resources, conditionally. "No names" is the rule, so they call each other by their home-towns: "Columbus" (Jesse Eisenberg—combine Michael Cera with Hugh Grant's stammering timing and that's him) and "Tallahassee" (Woody Harrelson, who's extremely funny), and the film becomes an "armed-to-the-teeth" road-movie searching for the mythical "safe zone" that always seems to provide a goal for these movies.**
All the characters are smart (or dumb) enough and funny enough that everyone has their fair share of laughs. Ultimately, that's the final goal, along with a slice of relationship-therapy, as the movie can't come to any real resolution of the zombie problem (which would be...running out of bullets...or zombies). The best one can do is compromise on the "I wouldn't if you were the last (whatever) on Earth" as that's become an attainable goal.
It's a funnier movie than "Shaun of the Dead," which gnarled on the same material, but "Zombieland" trades in its laughs for a Hollywood slickness that feels as if its going down well-worn storyline grooves of character resolution. The movie is given a seventh inning stretch by a gracious cameo by Bill Murray (no, really...he must owe Sony Pictures a movie) and wonderful graphic work, which solves the University of Florida problem by providing the "Columbus'" rules for dealing with zombies by pop-up graphics that regularly illustrate an example. As a public service, I provide them here:
Rule #1: Cardio ("the fatties" went first)
Rule #2: Double-Tap (don't trust the first shot)
Rule #3: Beware of bathrooms
Rule #4: Seat-belts (wear them)
(Here, things get a little sketchy)
Rule #7: Travel light
Rule #17: Don't be a hero
Rule #18: Limber Up
Rule #22: When in doubt, know your way out
Rule #31: Check the back-seat
Rule #32: Enjoy the little things
"Zombieland" complies with Rule #32, and is a Matinee.
* And one would think "ad internecionem." Since these zombies are flesh-eating, that would mean that a lot of the zombies are missing limbs and would make lousy zombies, and eventually, well, supply and demand being what it is...wouldn't they basically eat themselves to extinction? In the words of "Tallahassee:" "Pretty soon life's little Twinkie gauge is gonna go empty." But I digress...
** The movie has such a fun time dealing with zombie and movie cliche's that it even addresses the issue:
Columbus: You know there's a place untouched by all this crap?
Tallahassee: Out east, yeah?
Tallahassee: Out west, we hear it's out east, out east they hear it's out west. It's all bullshit. It's like you're a penguin at the North Pole hears the South Pole is real nice this time of year.
Columbus: There are no penguins in the North Pole.
Tallahassee: (pause) You wanna feel how hard I can punch?
Wednesday, October 21, 2009