Saturday, December 12, 2009

“Zombieland” – Tonight’s specials: Flesh and Twinkies.

Let’s set the mood for this film: a zombie chases down a man on a football field and begins to tear into him with his teeth. Sounds like a horror film, right? Try this: a zombie chases down a fat man on a football field and begins gnawing on him while the main character, Columbus, defines his first rule of surviving in Zombieland, “Cardio.” If I had been drinking anything when I saw this I would have sprayed the nice lady in front me as I choked in hysterics.

That kind of humor is exactly why I wanted to see this movie. There have been more than enough horror movies released lately and we didn’t need another serious one. This movie was exactly what we did need; a spoof of zombie movies without being ridiculous to the degree of the Wayans brothers. It was also nice to watch a comedy that did not involve Seth Rogen or Will Ferrell or any of their sidekicks. Too much more of those guys and I’ll be wishing for zombies to start chowing down on me.

One of the people that it did have was someone totally unexpected and I never would have guessed it would be Woody Harrelson making me laugh so hard. This may have been the role he was born to play. It was one of those roles that you would swear he had written for himself when he was eleven years old and never let it go. That’s why I had no trouble believing the immense pleasure he had when he was killing zombies. I think he even helped come up with the list of different ways his character would kill them. He shot them, he hit them with baseball bats, he ran them over with cars, he slammed them in the face with the car door as he drove by. This was a goofy actor’s dream and we took as much delight in his antics as he did. To top it all off, the only thing he wanted more than killing zombies was to find a Twinkie. Yes, a Twinkie.

Being a zombie movie, the plot was same as all previous zombie flicks: survival. A group of people come together and just try to help each other survive. Though, in this film, it took the group most of the film to actually get to that point. See, another of Columbus’ rules is to trust no one and he’s not the only person that follows that rule. A couple of girls that he and Tallahassee (Harrelson) run into con them out of their weapons and car twice. Eventually, they work out their trust issues and end up saving each other in an amusement park.

The impressive thing about this film is that it avoided being really bad. Every now and then a movie like this gets made, but ends up falling on its face because the filmmakers fall into the usual traps. One of those traps is creating a list of rules, then forgetting about them halfway through the movie. Not this time. One of the funniest rules in “Zombieland” is called “The Double Tap.” Columbus explains it as always shoot the zombie one more time to make sure it’s dead. This is the classic blunder made in most horror films and it was a great idea to call this out. Throughout the movie, they remind us every time a double tap occurs, as well as every time any of the other rules are invoked. This was easily the funniest aspect of the film.

They also have a celebrity cameo in the film. This is another thing that usually detracts from a film. Remember how stupid Will Ferrell was in “The Wedding Crashers?” Well, “Zombieland” came dangerously close to crossing that line, especially since the cameo added nothing to the film. The only funny thing about it is the revelation of who it was.

As much as I liked the movie, I’m not sure if I want them to make a sequel. There’s a mound of potential, but I’m afraid they would replicate the steamer that Michael Bay dropped on us with his “Transformers” sequel. Even if they don’t, we’ll always be left with the look on Tallahassee’s face when he finally finds his Twinkie. Though, the one you’ll remember is when he comes across nothing but snowballs. I hate them too.

Rating: This one is worth the full price of admission. The manager might even throw in a Twinkie.

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