Zombieland Review: An Unsatisfying Overly Violent Thrill Ride

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Wasn’t there a humorous parody about zombie films made back in 2004 by the name of Shaun of the Dead? Do we need another zombie comedy? The unfortunate answer in the long run in regards to Ruben Fleischer’s Zombieland is no, not really. Why I mention Shaun of the Dead is an important presentation style that made Edgar Wright’s film a general success and what makes Fleischer’s film an average run of the mill blockbuster. There is a huge difference between parody, invoking a style in order to mock the genre’s attributes, and a comedy, which takes situational and gag humor and applies it to the atmosphere the creators wished to present. Zombieland is, of course, the latter which uses a post-apocalyptic world filled with zombies to create comedic situations with them rather than use the genre as an instrument to mock and highlight the zombie films familiar style. If one does not parody the film they instead immerse themselves in the genre’s typical presentation while also being quite cliché and average in character development and story arc. But can you expect as much for a directorial debut? For what it’s worth Zombieland is a rollercoaster ride, to say the least, filled with a few humorous anecdotes and enough gore to make you feel noxious. As a comedy the film isn’t remarkable and even as a zombies film it doesn’t quite compare to incredibly successful examples such as Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later. Mostly this is your average blockbuster, dressed to impress with effective style but lacks the personality to make it remotely memorable.

In a common comedic portrayal in action films Fleischer uses a protagonist that is as unlikely at survival in every day activities let alone a zombie apocalypse. However, this Jewish neurotic known only as a nickname for his hometown, Columbus, played by the appropriately awkward Jesse Eisenberg, has a set of rules that he follows in order to insure survival including Cardio, beware of bathrooms, limber up, etc. He is teamed up with an unlikely partner (unlikely is a good word to describe most of this film) called Tallahassee, played by a charming academy award nominee Woody Harrelson, who is as brash as he is rude creating a typical comedic duo the tough guy and the neurotic. As they travel through the destruction that is the torn up zombie world, Tallahassee makes sure another rule is added to that list of Columbus’, enjoy the simple things in life. They eventually team up with another group encompassing two sisters, the charmingly beautiful Emma Stone as Wichita and the effectively innocent Abigail Breslin as Little Rock. The story is more about the survival of these four group members and how trust, attraction, and friendship are all determining dramatic factors of the stories continuation. It’s a typical presentation of story and the dramatic elements, or character growth, aren’t particularly original either, but it makes for a solid basis for the stories progression.

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There are some interesting cinematography moments layered throughout the film that show the talent of cinematographer Michael Bonvillain but it also suggests his lack of use when examining the rest of the film. The slow motion segments in the opening credits, as well as a unique crane shot in the opening that changes perspectives from an American flag to the low angle action segment of a zombie, serve as a visual strength to the film as grotesque images of zombie violence are portrayed as portraits of moments rather than shot by shot exposition. But this creativity shortly ends once the actual movie begins having awkward transition of creative ingenuity to cinematic normality. Music stings and crescendos associated with surprise attacks or intense action segments are common to any action film so these are also pretty standard use in Zombieland. What is so disappointing with the film is seen from its story all the way to it’s technical use, the potential for a great horror comedy. Instead the story was average, using cliché subplots and character growth to tug it along, and the technical creative work went from being visually engaging to visually standard. While watching Zombieland there will be an overwhelming feeling of “what could have been” that follows you well after the movie is over.

Acting these days doesn’t necessarily have to be great for your average blockbuster to tug along it just needs to be convincing and luckily the cast that was chosen has a track record of being dependable when it comes to being convincing. Jesse Eisenberg, an awkwardly presentable figure in the same vein as Michael Cera, works well as a neurotic and romantically challenged, although after Adventureland it doesn’t quite seem challenging enough for him. While Abigail Breslin impresses us again with her unique ability as a young actress to genre skip, Emma Stone is in her typical form as not venturing too far from her normal acting abilities. But Woody Harrelson is probably the films best bet at being a success with audiences since his surprising charm and unique presence brings the film an enjoyable and well worth watching atmosphere. This rollercoaster may have some bumps to being a successfully smooth ride, but it’s a thrill nonetheless.

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In all of its grotesque scenes of over the top violence, Zombieland embraces the modern age of cinematic violence while leaving behind the opportunity to make the film an actually unique comedy. Instead the comedy is typical, the characters are revisits of common clichés, and the story has an average base leading it in normal story progression, never stemming away from your average blockbusters traits. Although the actors were chosen well to tug the film along with their personalities, especially with a unique and humorous cameo appearance, the film won’t strike anyone as anything new but rather a rehashing of common action film plots. It’s certainly an entertaining rollercoaster ride (figuratively and literally) but there will be a nagging feeling that the film exploited over the top scenarios rather than developing a unique comedy that embraced its genre’s attributes instead of making them a side attraction.

Grade: C+

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Comments
6 Responses to “Zombieland Review: An Unsatisfying Overly Violent Thrill Ride”
  1. Rob Greco says:

    First off, I must say that I definitely enjoyed this movie and this overview.
    Although, I think you’ve been rather harsh (as all critics have to occasionally do) compared to some of your previous reviews.
    Now I don’t wish to pull out parts of what’s already here to justify my opinion, but I’ll try to summarize. Mainly I feel that the ‘goods’ in Zombieland outweighed the ‘bads’. Outweighed enough to deserve at least a B grade. Cast, action, and story placed together to form a nice little addition to that category of flesh-eating-undead-human-being movies.

    Oh and I’m late with this reply due to not having had the chance to see this movie until this Weds afternoon.

  2. Steve says:

    “However, this Jewish neurotic known only as a nickname for his hometown”

    Say what? This character was in no way identified as Jewish as in the movie. And if he’s Jewish just because the actor is, where were the mentions of the Jewishness of characters played Zac Efron, Paul Rudd, Natalie Portman, etc.?

    • octavarium08 says:

      Jewish neurotic as in referencing the humor and obsessive compulsive personality that reminds us of Steven Wright and Woody Allen.

      • Dave says:

        But Steven Wright isn’t even Jewish at all (He’s Catholic, and his background is a mix of Italian and WASP). So, once again, I don’t see the connection between the ethnicity and the personality. Wouldn’t just saying “neurotic” get the message through, and not confuse/annoy some people, especially younger people like me who haven’t had stereotypes drilled into their heads?

      • octavarium08 says:

        Would you prefer Richard Lewis? Larry David? It isn’t a stereotype, it is a perceived personality that many known Jewish comedians have successfully done before. I am commenting on the delivery Eisenberg is attempting to copy and deliver based on previous known neurotic Jewish influences. It’s a style, not a stereotype.

  3. Bee says:

    For future reference: Actors of fully Jewish background: -Logan Lerman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Mila Kunis, Natalie Portman, Bar Refaeli, James Wolk, Julian Morris, Esti Ginzburg, Kat Dennings, Erin Heatherton, Odeya Rush, Anton Yelchin, Paul Rudd, Scott Mechlowicz, Lizzy Caplan, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Gal Gadot, Robert Kazinsky, Melanie Laurent, Marla Sokoloff, Shiri Appleby, Justin Bartha, Adam Brody, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Gabriel Macht, Halston Sage.

    Actors with Jewish mothers and non-Jewish fathers -Jake Gyllenhaal, Dave Franco, Scarlett Johansson, Daniel Radcliffe, Alison Brie, Eva Green, Emmy Rossum, Jennifer Connelly, Eric Dane, Jeremy Jordan, Joel Kinnaman.

    Actors with Jewish fathers and non-Jewish mothers, who themselves were either raised as Jews and/or identify as Jews: -Andrew Garfield, Ezra Miller, Alexa Davalos, Nat Wolff, James Maslow, Josh Bowman, Ben Foster, Nikki Reed, Zac Efron.

    Actors with one Jewish-born parent and one parent who converted to Judaism -Dianna Agron, Sara Paxton (whose father converted, not her mother), Alicia Silverstone, Jamie-Lynn Sigler.

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