Wednesday, October 14, 2009
I suppose Zombieland is okay for a pilot for TV series that somehow made it to the big screen. Unfortunately, the flick never outgrows its made for TV birth and grows into a real movie. Not really a zomedy, it's more a cookiecutter road movie with zombie sprinkles.
Set a couple of months after the inevitable zombie apocalypse, we’re helpfully kept up with what’s happening onscreen by the interminable voiceover of a chuckleheaded teen (a low-budget Michael Cera). Short of a film noir parody, I doubt that there has ever been a movie with more voiceover than Zombieland. Our chatterbox is soon joined by Woody Harrelson (played by Woody Harrelson) and a mercenary pair of sisters (some raccoon-eyed brunette and that kid from Little Miss Sunshine). For some reason, they get it into their tiny little minds that an amusement park 3000 miles away is clear of the undead, and off they go. Along the way they talk, shop and argue. Sometimes, a zombie shambles into the picture and they kill it by way of a set of rules lifted (unattributed) from Max Brooks’ zombie satire, The Zombie Survival Guide. Pausing frequently to set up product placement for Hostess and General Motors, they arrive in LA and drop in on a fading A-lister to give him a handjob and pimp a certain film in the Paramount back catalog. The film stops dead in its tracks as the actors vamp to the interminable theme song of that film and the narrative never really recovers. Not that there was much going on before, but...
It’s never made clear how these rocket scientists manage to last as long as they do in a zombie apocalypse, what with leaving doors and gates open and lighting up big neon signs that flash "Eat Here!" for miles around. A whole, wide world of unlocked gunstores and auto dealerships, and these folks can only scrape up enough brain cell activity to either stumble across supplies or steal from other survivors. Maybe it’s weak metaphor, but it doesn’t feel that way.
If Zombieland was a li'l more cartoonish, it might have been something interesting. Unfortunately, most of the creative zombie kills promised in the trailer were featured in the trailer (and in the movie, mostly featured in the opening credits), with the rest of the running time padded out with tone-deaf jibber jabber. The weakest link is trying too hard to be a zombie movie for folks that don't like zombie movies, with too much of the sitcom warm-n-fuzzy hung around its neck. As such, it’s not clever and it’s not suspenseful; one never gets the vibe that any of the leads might not make it to the end credits.
Even worse, it doesn't even bother to try to overcome its sit-com roots. One gets the vibe that the third act of the script was cobbled together in a hurry to get away from the open end a pilot would have left. And not cobbled very well...here the third act completely betrays the two female characters by having them do something so out of character that it only works so that the two boneheaded males can come in and clean up the mess after them. Ah, stupid chicks. What can you do?
Down and dirty, the film is an mouth-breathing genre piece made by opportunists that have no affinity for the genre. It's nothing more than a half-baked narrative designed only to connect a series of product placements. Which in itself is ironic, seeing how the prime metaphor of the zombie genre is of rampant consumerism. It's another example of pop culture eating itself, with no self-awareness. A zombie film for zombies.
Shaun of the Dead, Return of the Living Dead and Dead/Alive are secure as the only zomedies that matter.