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"Zombieland" should be on your must-see list (Review)

Imagine the insanely hot girl across the hall knocking on your door, begging you to hold her. You’ve dreamed of this day for months between World of Warcraft raids and Mountain Dew: Code Reds. It’s too good to be true if you’re a neurotic shut-in like Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), I’m sad to say. She’s been bit and he has to kill the hottest girl he’s ever touched. That’s life in Zombieland.

Great movies come in all varieties. Zombieland is a damn fine piece of cinema. It’s not like any movie you’ve seen, not even a zombie movie; it’s easily one of the funniest movies of the year; it has real characters with honest interactions; and it’s frothing with clever cinematography.

Some of the most inventive films aren’t afraid to start with a set of rules. Gremlins is a great example. An old mystic gives some guy a cuddly little Mogwai named Gizmo. The rules: don’t feed him after midnight and don’t let him get wet. Of course, we know what does happen, and it’s both disturbing and funny. The rules in Zombieland are very practical: cardio is important, always wear a seatbelt, check the backseat, beware of bathrooms, double tap (shoot the zombie once more in the head), and always enjoy the little things. Columbus follows these rules religiously and they’ve kept him alive so far. He’s even numbered them all.

Oh, and by the way Jesse Eisenberg’s character isn’t actually named Columbus; that’s just where he’s from. Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) gives him that nickname when they meet up…at gunpoint. Harrelson is having a ball in this film. I haven’t seen him this energetic in years. It turns out Tallahassee wasn’t good at much in the real world, but he sure is great at zombie killing—imagine that. Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) join the mix as two conniving girls, who trick the guys and steal their car. It’s every man (and woman) for himself in Zombieland. There are some incredible cameos in the film as well, but I won’t ruin them.

There is a structure to this film, but it isn’t obvious or predictable. Director Ruben Fleischer, who appears to be a first time director, shows some real skill. He seamlessly weaves in graphic displays of the rules when they are followed and broken—much like select scenes in Stranger Than Fiction or Fight Club but on a grander scale. In one scene, an old lady kills a zombie with a falling piano to win “Zombie Kill of the Week,” which pops up on the screen like a trophy earned in a videogame. Along with displays, he uses super fluid slow-motion in several scenes to emphasize destruction and carnage. These aren’t new techniques, but I’ve never seen them used so effectively. Fleischer doesn’t hold back on the zombie killing, but has a knack for making it fun, and also kind of like a videogame. These characters aren’t afraid of getting bit: they’re prepared.

If you have a weak stomach, I’d advise you to get over it. This film is violent, but it’s fantastic. Zombieland is no Citizen Kane, but it’s a movie that loves other movies. Cinemaphiles, casual moviegoers, people who like to laugh, and zombie fans will love this movie. See it on the big screen.

Score: 5 out of 5

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