So who all remembers a few years back when Michael Cera, Emma Stone, and Jess Eisenberg ruled the fucking world? Back between the years of 2008-2010 you could not walk into a movie theater without seeing their cute, hipstery, quirky, adorableness plastered over billboards. Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist, Youth in Revolt, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Juno, Easy A, Friends with Benefits, Adventureland, and The Social Network just to name a few! Their popularity has kind of peeked over the past few years and they are settling into new roles and films but for the longest time these three almost felt like the 21st centuries version of the Brat Pack and were almost unstoppable with the amount of success that they were achieving with their movies.
Well in 2009 Stone and Eisenberg made their mark on the zombie genre of Hollywood and along with Woody Harrelson and Abigail Breslin starred in Zombieland. Now I remember back in 2009 when this came out, I was working at a FYE for a time and I could not go ANYWHERE without seeing signs and posters for this movie. (It didn’t help the FYE was right next to the theater.) I could not go to work or talk to a friend without a joke from this movie, retelling a scene, or quoting one of the Rules of Surviving a Zombie Apocalypse. I wasn’t able to see it in theaters, but as soon as it came out on DVD I picked it up and watched it and I do have to say… I was very impressed. I am one of those people who usually HATES Zombie Comedy Films. I like to think of zombie stories as a very serious topic and I will be one of the few people to throw up my hands and say that films like Dead Snow are some of my least liked films period. (Though one of my favorites is Shaun of the Dead… Go figure)
But over all, I found it enjoyable and I still have the copy in my room… The problem though is that after a couple of years the only time I have really watched it is when I decided I was going to do a review on the subject. And it would appear that I am not the only one. This film seemed to hit some peak of ultimate fan enjoyment… Then suddenly disappear into the realm of obscurity much the same way as the still baffling fandom that surrounded Mind of Mencia.
Now please, nobody think for a minute that I am about to call Zombieland bad in retrospective. I am not saying that at all. I just think that it is something that needs reevaluating after a few years of being on the market… And with that being said, let’s get started
The Film is Hilarious
I’m just going to say it. This film had me rolling on the floor laughing when I watched it. The jokes are great, the moment when the old woman drops the piano on a zombie was one of the funniest things I have seen since Shaun of the Dead. The zombie deaths that are meant to be comedic are really funny and a refreshing change of pace. Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) is nothing short of inspired in what I will go ahead and say is one of his best roles as his character is on a never-ending quest for Twinkies.
I do feel a few of the jokes fell flat such as the whole bit with Bill Murray which we will get to later as well as the two girls always trying to spring cute and quirky traps on Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) and Tallahasee gets really old really fast. But really other than those two jokes, I feel the rest of the film is very funny and enjoyable.
It Provides Very Decent Motifs and Thoughts on the Zombie Apocalypse
One of the areas that I do love about the film is the concept that none of the four main characters go by their real name. Instead they take the alias of the city that they are from such as Columbus, Tallahassee, Little Rock (Abigail Breslin), and Wichita (Emma Stone). It is an interesting concept of a type of rebirth. As the world has turned into this new evil, so too evolves the humans and with that comes new identity and new titles. Now granted Wichita shares her name with Columbus after he saves her and I’m sure that eventually Columbus, Wichita, and Little Rock would learn each others names, but I like the idea that with this new group or ‘family’ as they call it comes a new identity to go along with them.
Not to mention the rules that the Columbus character lives by are… Pretty damn good rules for survival. Not to mention they do add the most amount of laughs in the film.
This is a nitpick, but it is something that I personally found to be an error in the film. This film does feature Bill Murray playing himself. He turns out to be Tallahassee’s idol and proceeds to share several wacky antics with the cast members, with the exception of Columbus and Little Rock who are currently chilling in the dark private screening room watching Ghostbusters with a loaded shotgun. Tallahassee and Bill Murray after smoking some weed, decide it is a good idea to dress Bill Murray as a zombie and walk into the dark lit room with a man who is currently wielding a shotgun and spent god knows how long shooting the first thing that moves towards him. Needless to say this does not end well for Bill, who takes a shotgun blast to the chest at close range. After a few witty banters, Bill dies, and they toss his body over the fence.
Wow… Where do I even begin? First off the mere act of killing a person who is trying to play a practical joke on said person and make it into a comedic scene is a VERY tough sell. Now all things considered I know several people who like this scene and do find it funny, mainly because they can disconnect and realize that Bill Murray really isn’t dying like this. But that is a big problem. In order to even get the joke you have to remove yourself from the movie to be able to laugh at it. I found this whole scene very distracting.
But even then this scene could have been salvaged if it wasn’t for the fact that Bill Murray is playing himself. This isn’t a character that Bill Murray is playing. This is Bill Murray as Bill Murray in Bill Murray’s house. The idea of a beloved comedic actor actually dying by telling a very poor practical joke just leaves a very sour taste in my mouth and it doesn’t come off as very enjoyable or comedic, but cruel and tragic.
It is a nitpick but it is a big enough nitpick that I felt I needed to discuss it. It feels unnecessarily cruel and takes the viewer out of the movie as it is approaching its third act. It just seems to be a misplaced joke that really didn’t work all that well… But granted it could have been A LOT worse.
The Film is Not Remaining Timeless
Before I get into this, I want to kind of talk about both comedic movies and dramas. Now dramatic movies and period pieces tend to be the things that the Academy Awards eat up. The Godfather, Argo, The Pianist, and so on and so forth just to name a few examples. These films are usually the ones with a few exceptions that are heralded as the greatest films of all time. Usually most comedies could never hope to crack that list. Hell if you look at Top 10 or Top 20 Greatest Films of All Time you will be lucky to find one comedy that ever cracks that list.
But the area that comedy holds over all other genres is the fact that comedies tend to be the most beloved of all time. Go ahead and watch anyone’s personal Top 10-20 Favorite Films of All Time. NOT greatest… But favorites. For the most part, I have noticed those lists are usually 1/4 to half of the entries are comedies. Myself included. Comedies may not rack up Academy Awards or prestigious titles but at the end of the day whenever you just want to unwind and relax and enjoy the evening… Nine times out of Ten you are going to pop in a comedy instead of some epic dramatic piece. Comedies are the films that are remembered, comedies are the films that are beloved, and comedies are the films that are timeless. Duck Soup, Caddyshack, Airplane!, Animal House, The Three Stooges, Ghostbusters, Blues Brothers, Blazing Saddles, Spaceballs, Young Frankenstein, and so on! A great comedy film is a film that will live on for decades and decades. It is the films that you show to your children so that they may laugh along with you. It is the films that you watch to cheer you up. These films are the films that just have a level of joy to them that cannot be matched. When you make a great comedy, you make a timeless classic.
But Zombieland is not a great comedy. It is a good comedy do not get me wrong. But it is not a great comedy. This film had its 15 minutes of fame then died out, only to be resurrected by the occasional meme or whenever someone decides to talk about Twinkies. I think a lot of this can be contributed to the fact that the love for Eisenberg and Stone was beginning to waiver. Another one is that it just seemed to run its course and people found something new to latch onto. Whatever the case the film made its mark and it sadly wasn’t very big and I feel like the film is going to disappear into the realms of obscurity only to be brought up in conversation to which someone replies; ‘Isn’t that that zombie movie with Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, and Emma Stone?… OH YEAH that was a good movie… Yeah…’ I feel like the term ‘flash in the pan’ is far too harsh for a film that is as genuinely good as this… But in a way it does kind of apply.
I think I made it pretty clear… This film is a really good movie… But it just isn’t a timeless classic. Breslin, Stone, and Eisenberg while putting forth phenomenal performances just date the movie too much and the only character who has had any lasting value was the Harrelson character. It is a film that will drift to the back of your movie collection only to be resurrected while doing some extensive digging and being reminded that the film actually exists.
Final Score 3/5
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