Though he pretty quickly needs to man-up in a forthcoming role, or fear becoming typecast already in his now burgeoning career, it’s a pleasure still to see Jesse Eisenberg take the lead in a world overrun with zombies, although he wouldn’t be your first bet when picking survivors on a destroyed planet. Playing the wimpish Columbus, a geeky loner who before a virus turned humanity into the flesh-hungry undead, wasted his days immersed in World of Warcraft, Eisenberg has survived against all odds thanks to a number of rules he lives his new life by.
Paying particular important to the ‘double tap’, popping off a second bullet into a zombie’s head to avoid, even if you think they’re already goners, and ‘cardio’, because when was the last time you saw a man carrying a few extra pounds outrun a rapid, mindless human, Columbus is happy enough ticking over the days before everything gets thrown on his head when he meets a handful of other survivors making their way across our shattered world.
First meeting Tallahassee (Harrelson), an unforgiving hardball with an unnatural desire to find the last remaining Twinkies on Earth, and Wichita (Stone) and Little Rock (Breslin), two untrusting sisters, forever eager to eager to ditch their new found friends, adamant they’re better off on their own, the four head to LA to go to theme park Pacific Playground, so young Little Rock can imagine what it’s like to be a kid once more. A never ending supply of zombies, of course makes putting their plan into action a little more difficult than they were expecting, although it allows them the time to realise at last, perhaps new found friendship is more important than they ever would have ever believed before.
Despite a formulaic opening, which is its defence does feature a fantastic title sequence, Zombieland quickly gets away from the drab and frustrating feeling you might get from Columbus’ early over-reliance on his rules. As the plot starts to pick up, however, the characters take charge and rules only pop back up for a few laughs for a few scenes towards the end.
Pitting zombies against comedy, Zombieland was always going to come up again the now legendary horror/comedy king, Shaun of the Dead. Zombieland, though, is much more focussed on the comedy, rather than the horror. At times it does prove gore-intensive but beyond a handful of shocks, the character based humour perfectly suits the four lead actors having the time of their lives in perfectly written roles. Harrelson was born for his role and underlines why there’s still a lot more to come from his before he hangs up his boots. Similarly, Eisenberg and Breslin continue their rise in the Hollywood ranks, converting a solid script into characters with snappy dialogue and an energetic wit, but it’s Emma Stone who really comes into her own after her previously promising performance in Superbad a couple of years ago. Pulling off the smouldering devil-may-care look with consummate ease, Stone has an irresistible quality to her no-one could have predicted before filming began.
With a hilarious Bill Murray cameo thrown in for good measure, Zombieland is a hugely entertaining comedy that doesn’t feel like the big studio release it has become, keeps some indie style and sensibilities from first-time director Ruben Fleischer, and will undoubtedly become the new zombie-comedy cult classic for the next generation.