Nerd flicks have been dominating the box office for a couple of years now. The influence of comic books, fantasy trilogies and video games has been rising at a meteoric rate. But on October 2nd, 2009, pop-corn nerd cinema reached a new zenith with Zombieland.
When I first saw the trailer, I remember thinking "this looks pretty awesome, but I probably just saw all the best parts." If you clicked the link, you may find yourself haunted by similar reservations. But fear not; there is a lot more funny to be found in these post apocalyptic wastes. And I am not an easy laugh. Like most people, society has conditioned me to produce a courtesy-laugh with a very low humor threshold for the sake of politeness. Sadly I frequently fall back on it even when I'm watching movies. But this is not real laughter. It is a real-life 'lol' that is more a recognition of attempted humor than a genuine display of mirth. By contrast, this movie has several legitimate ROFL moments. In fact, no fake, truth here to follow: Zombieland is not merely hilarious, but one of the funniest movies I've seen in a long time.
Then again, this movie was designed with people like me in mind, and it was perfectly calibrated to ensure total domination over my demographic. It's clear that Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese have played a lot of video games, and I'm not just talking about zombie blastin' fare like L4D- although the influence of that title is clear, and the film will do the sequel's sales figures a big favor. The influence of Max Brook's Zombie Survival Guide is also apparent, as main character Columbus rattles off a list of zombie surviving maxims simply referred to as "The Rules." Interestingly, these rules are not only narrated, but they pop up on screen whenever applied or applicable, in a comparable manner to the visual motifs of a video games. One gag, (which was sadly surrendered by in one of the trailers), takes this concept even further, referencing a "Zombie Killer of the Week", complete with a flashy, 'achievement unlocked' looking icon.
In case you've been wondering, this post is named after rule 32 for Zombieland which simply advises that one "Enjoy the little things." It's the kind of trite advice which normally pisses me off, because I've always felt there is an urge for compliance and complacency buried beneath the optimism of those truisms. Suggesting one satisfy himself with 'little things' seems to imply that going after big things would be too much trouble. Of course, my suspicions led me to completely disregard the whole "enjoy" part of the equation, so I miss the point entirely. Zombieland helps remind people like me that the difference between living and un-living is enjoying vs. surviving life. I know it sounds pithy, but the gleeful cringe-inducing semi-campy violence involved delivers the movie from preciousness.
From a technical perspective, the movie doesn't break any ground, which is perfectly fine because it doesn't aspire to. The music is mostly familiar, forgettable rock, and the effects are sufficiently bloody. The performances were very enjoyable, though given that every character in the film is a stock character of one kind or another, it was mostly a matter of good casting. That being said, I'm glad that Jesse Eisenberg was chosen to play 'the nerdy sensitive guy' instead of Michael Cerra, and Woody Harrelson makes a hell of a psychotic cowboy. Abigail Breslin of Little Miss Sunshine fame didn't get much in the way of screen time as 'the cute kid' and Emma Stone meets the right balance between wicked hot and playfully bitchy. It's the 'surprise guest' who really steals the show though, but giving him away would be a spoiler punishable by death. As time goes on, the secret will get harder to keep though, so I recommend you get to a theater post-haste. And bring friends. It's that kind of movie.