Movie News & Reviews

'Zombieland': Laughing at the undead

In the months after the zombie apocalypse, brought on by a virulent mutation of mad cow disease, America has ceased to be.

The few survivors don't use names but hometowns as their monikers. They travel the interstates in sturdy GM SUVs, loaded with weapons, looking for refuge. They listen to heavy metal — Don't Fear the Reaper, of course. In this United States of Zombieland, all they want are "the little things" — like Twinkies.

Zombieland is the funniest zombie movie since Shaun of the Dead, funnier even than Fido! This is a 28 Days Later played for laughs — lots of them, endless jokes, one-liners and sight gags.

That nebbish's nebbish Jesse Eisenberg (Adventureland) is our narrator — a survivor not because he's tough but because he's smart. He lives by a long set of post-zombie rules, rules that flash on the screen each time he applies one to some life-threatening situation: "Rule #1, Cardio." Run, because "the first ones to go were the fatties"; "Rule #3, Beware of Bathrooms"; and "Rule #17, Don't be a hero."

The kid is making his way home to Columbus, Ohio, where he grew up. "Columbus," that's what the snarling, zombie killer (Woody Harrelson) driving an Escalade on which he has painted Dale Earnhardt's No. 3, calls him. Harrelson's "Tallahassee" is all action — guns and baseball bats and lawn-care implements, all used to kill zombies as he prowls empty stores looking for the last Twinkie in Zombieland.

These two mismatched companions run up on some survivor sisters — Wichita (Emma Stone, all bangs and too much makeup) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) — but "trust issues" stand in the way of their traveling as a quartet.

Director Ruben Fleischer and writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, complete unknowns, pepper this script with snark and wit. Black humor flows as thick and black as the blood the zombies spurt and the bile they vomit. It's still just a dumb zombie movie, but at least in Zombieland, they know Living Dead is the biggest joke of all.