Fuck. I really wanted to like this movie. I went in prepared for one of the most fun movies in a while. I love zombies, I love comedy and as the post below makes abundantly clear, I love Woody Harrelson. So what happened. I don't know. Maybe my movie pretentiousness has reached a point of real concern and I can't appreciate a film for just being fun anymore. Maybe Zombieland got over-hyped and I was defeated by my own expectations. Maybe It just wasn't quite as good as everyone wished it would be. All possible, but what I do know is that I came out disappointed.
The movie pitches itself almost as 'Scream' for the zombie genre. A piss take that gets to have its zombie abolitionist cake and eat it too. Its certainly true that zombies and their accompanying cinematic adventures lend themselves to ridiculousness, but for me Zombieland, with the irony meter cranked to a permanent ten doesn't quite pull off what it was trying to do. It has its moments. The credit sequence of various cliched zombie attacks in super slow-motion was pretty awesome, for one. But for me it veers to much on the side of 'Zombies are ridiculous' rather then 'Zombies are ridiculous but I love it'. Scream toed the right side of that line in regards to slasher movies, plus provided some genuine scares. Shaun of the dead, this movies closest relative, had its fair share of laughs but the zombies despite being pathetic, were still a threat and capable of killing characters we care about. There was a threat of menace beneath the laughs and for me that's what a horror comedy needs in order to work.
The movie does a lot better with character humor and as a coming of age story then a great zombie movie and maybe that's the best way to look at it. Superbad with the occasional death by banjo. Its main saving grace is Harrelson's Tallahassee, a terrificly iconic and hilarious badass whose presence in this movie is to kill zombies and make you laugh. No arc, maybe one half-hearted attempt to humanize him, but mostly he's just there to be awesome. Jesse Eisenberg is actually a very good actor, but he is given a reactionary character who's job its is bounce of Harrelson. Emma Stone, an actress I never got until this movie, actually fares better and despite being in this movie to fill the quota of hot girls. Amber Heard's cameo also adds to that. Stone nails some of the darker humor well and was a pleasant surprise. Abagail Breslin does her usual thing, although her explanation of Hannah Montana did make me laugh. A certain legendary comic actor also turns up, and although his stuff isn't blindingly well written, the guy just owns. The script isn't as clever as I think you need for this kind of thing and actually, once the gang is all together, the zombies take a large backseat until the finale. And even then they don't bag anybody. High in contention for the most impotent zombies in movie history. With all the wryness in regards to the genre, ironically it takes Eisenberg and Stone's reluctant teen dalliance relatively seriously. Which gives this movie heart, even if it doesn't give it a brain.
Many people will enjoy this, its one of those movies that too busy being aware that's a movie to actually be a movie, if that makes any sense. And for me that keeps it from being the classic of its kind we all hoped for. It also probably puts zombies to bed for a while.