Susan Granger Reviews - 05/10

ZOMBIELAND - Silly Slapstick

By Susan Granger - It's pointless to expect too much from a slapstick/teen romance horror satire and, if that's your attitude, you won't be disappointed.

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Zombieland (Columbia Pictures/Sony)

With America ravaged by the virus-infected, flesh-hungry un-dead, survival strategies are a necessity - at least according to Columbus ("Adventureland's" Jesse Eisenberg), named because he hails from Columbus, Ohio, so that's what a post-apocalyptic, zombie-blasting, redneck road warrior, Tallahassee ("Management's" Woody Harrelson), calls him when he picks him up in his yellow Hummer. According to Tallahassee's credo, people should go by place names to avoid emotional attachments, particularly since everyone's now an orphan. But before long, they're hoodwinked on the road by a couple of clever con-artist sisters, seductive Witchita ("The House Bunny's" Emma Stone), and 12 year-old Little Rock ("Little Miss Sunshine's" Abigail Breslin), en route to California's fabled Pacific Playland, supposedly a zombie-free zone where Tallahassee can find an edible Hostess Twinkie. But before the resilient foursome arrives there for a climactic theme park finale, a #90210 detour is on Tallahassee's agenda, using a map of movie stars' homes to locate the Beverly Hills mansion belonging to Bill Murray, who makes an extended cameo.

"Who's Bill Murray?" inquires Little Rock but, then again, she doesn't know who Gandhi was either. And when Tallahassee quizzes Murray, 'Do you have any regrets?" Murray quips: "'Garfield,' maybe." (But this in-joke doesn't play as funny as it should.)

That's illustrative of the way screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, aided and abetted by first-time feature director Ruben Fleisher, fire gags like a blast of buckshot; some land, some don't. Their most imaginative scam surfaces when Witchita buys gas for their car at a service station and 'loses' her engagement ring. And their least funny is when they have the quartet gleefully destroy a Native American curio shop. Cinematographer Michael Bonvillain does the hand-held thing and special effects make-up designer Tony Gardner goes for raunchy rancid. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Zombieland" is a smarmy, silly 6. For a far funnier take on the same subject, rent Edgar Wright's "Shaun of the Dead" (2004).

By Susan Granger © 2009.

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