This article was written exclusively for The Film Magazine by Libby Briggs.
Director: Ruben Fleischer
Screenwriters: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin
Let’s imagine we’re in the midst of a zombie apocalypse, just for a second. The streets are empty (give or take the few living dead hungry for brains), there’s no internet, and you had to kill your hot neighbour for turning on you right in front of your very eyes. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that you and I would probably be toast before long. If we weren’t and, if by some miracle, our binge of ‘The Walking Dead’ finally paid off and we managed to survive, chances are we probably wouldn’t enjoy ourselves very much.
The same can’t be said for lead protagonist Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg – The Social Network) in Ruben Fleischer’s now iconic 2009 zombie horror-comedy Zombieland. Nerdy and socially inept, it’s essentially another Mark Zuckerberg role – if Zuckerberg slaughtered zombies. Oh, and the lack of Facebook posts in this post-apocalyptic America is one of his favourite things about it. Before the zombie outbreak, Columbus didn’t really have anything going for him. His parents were just as reserved and anti-social as himself, and friends were out of the question. Essentially, he spent most of his time playing video games and fawning over his neighbour. Unfortunately for him, when things started to turn nasty, she was the first to go. Things soon start to look up for him however – things that might not have if this disaster had never happened.
“The first time I let a girl into my life, and she starts to eat me.”
Even a loner needs someone to talk to occasionally, so of course things start to look up for Columbus when he meets and teams up with Twinkie-loving eccentric, Tallahassee (portrayed with the iconic and unusual charm of Woody Harrelson). In fact, he’s less than bothered when conned by sisters Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin). Whether it’s because she’s the first girl he’s seen in weeks, or simply because it’s Emma Stone (La La Land, Easy A), Columbus is quickly smitten by Wichita, despite the gun in his face. He might have struggled to find a date before, but now he’s quite literally one of the last guys on the planet – how hard could it be?
Eisenberg might be one of the go-to guys for nerdy characters, but in Zombieland there’s a little bit of charm about him. It naturally seems to bring out some laughter in Stone’s more hard-faced, stubborn character, given the responsibility of looking after her little sister, Little Rock. Abigail Breslin plays twelve-year-old Little Rock with maturity that dwindles at the mere mention of childlike fun, like adventure parks. Even Tallahassee’s own boyish antics allow her to learn to enjoy herself. Although they’re all heading to different places (you guessed it – Columbus and Tallahassee), we spend a lot of time with the group of four and their chemistry is fantastic. As for future lovers, Columbus and Wichita, the lack of romantic setting doesn’t stop them being rather sweet throughout the movie.
Zombieland is a fun-filled zombie film, but it isn’t one to frequently laugh out loud to – there are only so many times a person can laugh at a violent but slapstick zombie-death in one hour, though Fleischer’s visual style does compliment such moments well. The film’s obvious ridicule of cliché apocalypse movie tropes was also fun to spot, the now famous Bill Murray cameo in which Bill Murray plays Bill Murray in Bill Murray’s house (was that enough Bill Murrays?) not necessarily being as exceptional as people like to remember but being strong evidence of the film’s intentions nonetheless.
Generally speaking, Zombieland deserves its critically acclaimed status. The comedy may not be for everyone and there are certain sad moments that didn’t really seem to fit, but it’s certainly entertaining throughout with memorable lines and a great team of characters who forge a distinct and enjoyable chemistry.
Written by Libby Briggs
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