Thursday, 27 November 2014

Zombieland (2009)

I was reluctant to see this film because I had been disappointed by Shaun of the Dead.  I know that statement's probably going to trigger howls of disbelief - the latter film is pretty highly regarded in geeky circles.  I found it to be one half very funny comedy, and one half pretty decent zombie flick, but overall somehow less than the sum of its parts.

Eventually some friends persuaded me to give this movie a go, and as you might have guessed from the fact that I went on to buy it on DVD, I rather enjoyed it.  It's by no means a perfect film, you understand: I think the introduction of the two female characters is pretty weak, for instance.  I don't want to spoil details, but let's just say that for two supposedly smart ladies, they have a really dumb plan (it won't be the only time, either).  Also there's a section involving a 'surprise' guest star that feels a bit indulgent (though admittedly some of it is quite funny).

The 'quite funny' thing is important.  While I don't think Zombieland elicits as many laughs in its first half as Shaun of the Dead does, it sure as heck elicits a lot more in the second half.  Zombieland never forgets that it's a comedy, and even if not every joke hits home, it slings out enough of them that some are sure to land.

Columbus - so dubbed because that's where he is trying to get to - is a neurotic shut in whose survival in the zombie apocalypse can be traced back to his extensive list of Rules, such as 'always double tap'.  Don't be stingy with bullets, he tells us in voice over: better to use an extra round and be sure a zombie's dead than have it munch on your ankle.  He has some 31 of these rules, and given that they've kept him alive for two months, they've obviously got some merit to them.

Now, Columbus himself credits his survival partly to the fact that he was pretty much alone in the world before the zombies came, and his lack of ties made it easier for him to adapt, so he admits it's a bit out of character for him to buddy up with the stranger.  Yet this is what he does when he meets the zombie-killing maniac Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson, apparently having the time of his life).  Their duo will become a quartet later, and if you think that in the course of all this Columbus is going to avoid Learning An Important Lesson About What It Means To Really Be Alive, then I have some swampland you might be interested in buying.  It's a pretty minor addendum to the film's main agenda, though, which is bucketloads of zombie-fightin' hijinks.

This is well worth a look if you're interested in a zombie flick that doesn't take itself as seriously as so many of them do.  The cast is strong enough to cover most of my - relatively minor - quibbles with the script, and you should walk away from it with a smile on your face.

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