"Zombieland", the new film starring Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin as four of the few remaining humans living on planet Earth, is one of those movies that almost looks too good when you are watching the trailer. The Coming Attractions make you laugh and laugh and you suspect all of the funny bits were included to get some butts into seats. After watching the trailer, I feared the film would be a let down. There is no way it could live up to this two-minute clip reel.
Happily, I was wrong.
"Zombieland" begins with Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) giving us a brief recap of what has happened to this point. Short story even shorter, zombies have overrun the planet. As Columbus is one of the few remaining humans, he has developed a list of rules he uses to survive. He quickly recites the rules, such as "#7 Avoid Public Bathrooms", the rule appearing onscreen in large block letters as we watch a vignette illustrating the same rule (Mike White in an amusing cameo). We also learn that he is on his own and trying to get home, living on the hope that someone in his family might still be human. He quickly meets Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) when his Escalade complete with a modified cowcatcher careens through a freeway of abandoned cars, almost hitting Columbus. The two men learn they have very different purposes in life. Columbus just wants to stay alive and Tallahassee is searching for Twinkies. He simply wants to find as many Twinkies as he can, the golden snack cake, his favorite treat. The next day, they enter an abandoned supermarket and meet Witchita and Little Rock (Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin, respectively) two sisters who are trying to survive. Because they are all loners, they decide to try to remain as impersonal as possible and refer to each other by the name of their hometowns. They decide to work together and make their way to the West Coast. Along the way, they make two more very memorable stops. They also kill a lot of the zombies standing in their way.
I almost get the feeling that someone involved with this film turned on a stopwatch and mandated everything had to keep moving and the film would nor run more than 90 minutes. Generally, I sort of revel in films that allow the characters to grow and breath, provided they actually grow and breath, but "Zombieland" keeps things moving and the film benefits from this extremely fast pace. It moves so fast it doesn't have time to make mistakes, to seem slow and boring. Because everything keeps moving, you feel like you have experienced a fuller, longer, more fleshed out film.
As soon as we meet Columbus, we are thrust into the middle of this landscape, this story, we meet these characters. The film doesn't waste time setting everything up, explaining what has been happening. We learn this later, through some remembrances and as illustrations to some of Columbus' rules.
Because the film starts with these rules, we immediately learn two things about the story. First, zombies are running amuck. Second, Columbus is the type of guy who would be very comfortable making lists of rules. Later, we learn a little about Columbus' last and first experience with a girl and this also helps to illustrate why he is the type of guy who would go around making rules, lists, things to keep his life running smoothly and efficiently, to keep some order in his life.
But Columbus has learned to adapt to the new world order and has become quite adept at survival. He has learned how to shoot a gun, and what to do with it (related to one of his rules) and has learned how to keep a few steps ahead of the marauding zombies.
When he comes across Tallahassee (Harrelson), the two couldn't be more different. But this also makes them a good pair. Tallahassee is amused by Columbus and willing to give him a few pointers. And Tallahassee is so different from Columbus, the young man likes the dichotomy.
And Tallahassee's quest, to find as many of the remaining Twinkies left on the planet is amusing and continues to provide comic relief as his search becomes more and more desperate.
Emma Stone ("Superbad", "Ghosts of Girlfriends Past") and Abigail Breslin play the two sisters who will do anything they can to stay alive and stay together. Initially, they are reluctant to open up to the two men, but they quickly realize they need their help and can provide something to the group. Wichita also realizes Columbus is extremely interested in her, constantly flirting, and she enjoys the attention.
As they make their way across the US, they decide to make a funny, and very memorable pit stop leading to an incredibly funny extended cameo by a well-known comedian.
"Zombieland" is a lot of fun and plays like a roller coaster ride filled with laughs and chills and thrills.