Zombieland (2009): Breakdown by Rantbo
A small group of rag-tag zombie apocalypse survivors band together for a cross-country road trip to a West Coast theme park. Why? Because it’s funny.
Note: Now while I normally never do this (as I just don’t really give a fuck), I am issuing a spoiler warning for this breakdown. Simply because it’s relatively new at the time of this writing and ‘cuz I’ll pretty much be ruining every surprise. So, there you go.
If there is one thing almost every ‘B-Movie’ or genre film geek can agree upon, it’s that Zombie films are fuckin’ cool. And if there is two, it’s that Zombie Apocalypse movies are fuckin’ epically cool. As what nerd hasn’t at some point fantasized about being a shot-gun toting, lone wanderer of an undead riddled wasteland? Scavenging for sustenance and shelter, exterminating flesh-eating meat-bags with extreme prejudice, and maybe even teaming up with a Bad-Ass post apocalyptic alterna-hottie for companionship and re-population purposes. For me, it’s daily. And ZOMBIELAND happens to cater to this fantasy, by following the misadventures of one such relatable dork, who although is far more timid than I see myself being in the situation, is a believable, funny, and righteous representation of our socially outcast clan.
Jesse Eisenberg (the original Michael Cera), is Miss Columbus, Ohio 2009. A self proclaimed shut-in and all-around anti-social misfit who through his talents in human avoidance and self-made list of survival rules, has managed to stay alive despite the vicious hordes of mad-cow created zombies that now roam free across the countryside. Narrating his own awkward tale of survival, we join and follow ‘Columbus’ on his search for family, food and safety across the barren United States Of America, which he has lovingly, and appropriately re-titled, Zombieland.
While it turns out that Columbus isn’t the only one who’s managed to stave off becoming one of the walking dead, the film is far from being bogged down with a predictable and schlocky “Zombie Food” fodder cavalcade cast. Focusing instead on a minimalist group of four and their scavenge filled quest for family, a fresh start and a box of unspoiled Twinkies. A fine and welcome change from the typical go-to hunkering-down, bleeding-out-of-an-ensemble-cast-of-b-list-stars-focus that is so common within the genre. And it is in this tweaked premise that the film finds and exerts it’s clever charm and originality. Which, I feel I should mention, managed to do something very rare for me: make me actually root for all the main characters to survive. And that includes the little chubby girl from LITTLE MISS VACATION RIP-OFF.
Then, on top of the great concept, the film takes it to another level in making it an action/comedy zombie genre flick, as opposed to one of horror. Think SHAUN OF THE DEAD, but with a road-trip setting. Which, simply put, all but guarantees this to be a damn good movie.
And now, having watched ZOMBIELAND a couple times, most of my initial gripes have faded away. After my first viewing, I took issue with some of the seemingly out-of-place jokes, like the ‘Zombie Kill Of The Week’ gag (as seen in the trailer). This has since been made understandable, after finding out the inclusion of this non sequitur was due to the fact ZOMBIELAND was originally conceived to be television show based on the original screenplay, that would have actually featured the segment, every week. So, while I still find it extraneous and out of place, it now bothers me far less. Another turned-over gripe was the overabundance of product placement. But then Kain pointed out to me that, well—should the American apocalypse occur, corporate advertisement and junk-food will pretty much be our legacy. And I was suddenly OK with it all. And really, who doesn’t love Hostess snack cakes? However, one complaint of mine remains, and will likely never go away, thus keeping this film from receiving my top marks, but I’ll discuss this later under the [Misogyny And Exploitation] section of my breakdown. See you there.
While I could finish up here by commenting on the clever script, funny dialogue, endearing characters, and the well shot, brutally violent zombie action, I’m not going to. Instead I’ll encapsulate my praise by describing, what I believe to be, the defining scene of human/audience relatability, that the filmmakers pulled off so well…
After a tension filled stretch of road, ‘Tallahassee’ (Woody Harrelson) directs the motley crew of survivors to a tacky, racist road-side Native American themed gift shop, and encourages the group to proceed in laying waste to any and all merchandise and display fixtures contained within in a smash-filled release of stress and anger. Successfully personifying everything amazing and great about the concept of survival amidst insurmountable odds.
And if, for some reason, you are unable, or unwilling to understand and appreciate why this simple and short scene of wanton destruction is all-at-once so funny and tragic, beautiful and ugly, distinctly human and outright pivotal—you’re probably going to miss out on a lot about what makes this, and other Zombie films, so fucking worth watching. ZOMBIELAND, check it out.
[HOW BAD-ASS ARE THE MAIN CHARACTERS?]
Jesse Eisenberg is “Columbus”
Tallahassee: You’re a peppy little spit-fuck, ain’t cha?
And it is in that “peppiness” that Columbus is immediately likable, despite being a scrawny, cowering, shadow-scared wiener. But a Bad-Ass? No. However, that’s kind-of the whole point of story (and why the next character is so excellent—but I digress). ZOMBIELAND is the tale of how this “frightened little puppy”, learns to “nut-up, or shut-up” when serious shit is on the line. And—he does. Though I don’t exactly feel like spelling out all the specifics, the spark that ignites his explosion into heroism is a good (and sexy) one. And the fun of the film all stems from this journey and Columbus’s better-than-average character arch of zero-to-hero.
Woody Harrelson is “Tallahassee”
Columbus: Jesus Christ—you are a dangerous man.
Columbus: Tallahassee sets the standard for not-to-be-fucked-with.
Tallahassee does, indeed, beat whole-sale ass, ladies and gentlemen. Aside from being played by Woody Harrelson (easily one of the most likable and interesting actors in the business), his portrayal of the film’s resident BAMF is an instant classic, and completely defines the ideal aforementioned “Lone Wanderer” geek fantasy.
Columbus [Narrating]: I figured I’d be safer with Tallahassee. You see, he was in the ass-kicking business and…
Tallahassee: Business is good.
While his hatred for Zombies isn’t made clear until well into the film, his unabashed love for creative killing scenarios and general pastime of fucking shit up is so god damned entertaining, the catalyst becomes all but unnecessary (though still very touching). And as such, if this movie were a multi-player videogame, Tallahassee would be the character you get in a bitch-slap fight over who gets to claim his avatar. A borderline crazed modern cowboy, he’s a true Bad-Ass in every sense of the word.
Emma Stone is Hot—er, uh Krista a.k.a. “Wichita”
Ah, Emma. A girl so inexplicably adorable, I’m seriously considering her as a replacement for Michelle Monahan to be the recipient of my overtly sexual fan-letters of adoration. Which is good timing as I’m down to the final few puzzle pieces of my crusty underoo envelope padding, and will need to start up a new pair soon anyhow. I sense I may have said too much…
ANYWAYS, the point being, this girl is one foxy bitch. A con artist by trade, a Bad-Ass survivalist out of necessity, Wichita’s got the entire package. Plus Braaaaaaaainz…..! (I couldn’t resist). When she’s not busy busting Zombie flesh bags like over-ripe pimples and grifting poor deluded men out of their belongings and good sense, she’s playing the role of nurturer, protector and flimflam teacher to her kid sister. She even finds time to keep her eyes freshly applied with dark mascara, just like I like it. And did I mention her tight white t-shirt and leather pants? ~sigh~
Abigail Breslin is “Little Rock”
Columbus: She was like a crouching tiger.
While her role is crucial to the story, representing the innocence lost and representing the youth of Generation-Z, she still doesn’t end up doing too much. However, she did end up being far more relevant and useful than my preconceptions figured she would. A skilled scammer in her own right, she’s an unassuming little deviant and to her credit, kept her shit together in times of crisis. AND, she even gets a handful of kills. You know what? I take it back. She did do her fair share of ass-kicking.
[THE BODY COUNT: 102]
Fucking outstanding. While a large count is to be expected in an apocalypse flick, ZOMBIELAND excels with it’s plethora of original and exciting kills: Baseball bat, toilet lid, garden sheers, a piano, eaten alive, road kill, gravity, amusement park rides, and of course, guns. Glorious, glorious GUNS.
And not one of those 100+ kills include any of the back-story zombie deaths from the initial infection.
Check out my full Body Count Breakdown, HERE.
[MOST SATISFYING ASS-KICKING & DEATH]
“Fuck This Clown”
Yeah, fuck that clown. And all clowns for that matter. Excluding Shakes. The apex of Columbus’s journey into badassness (or at least, not so lameass-ness), culminates here. With the confrontation of what he fears most, to save what he loves most: Wichita. And that ain’t no choice a’tall. Binky gonna get his funny fuckin’ brains bashed in. Period. With a strong-man mallet. And they even threw in a satisfying honk as his nose Eskimo kisses the back of his own skull. Making this one of the only 3 times I’ve ever found a clown funny. Shakes included. The other one being, Grandma the Clown.
[DUDESWEAT AND MACHISMO]
Honestly, I didn’t really notice any. Of course, I could play off of the effeminate undertones of Columbus, but it would be futile as he is clearly into ladies and due to his skinny physique and subsequent flat-ass, I can’t imagine him being too sexually appealing to other men.
And while Tallahassee is pretty damn macho, the closest he gets to revealing any buried lust for other men is his star-struck reaction to B.M. and a little scene in which he punches Columbus for spraying him with perfume. But the gayness is negated as the ‘love-tap’ is done out of anger and disgust. And who wouldn’t be ecstatic at getting to meet Bill Murray?
[EXPLOITATION AND MISOGYNY]
OK, so aside from the stripper zombie (which has somehow become a zombie film requisite), there’s my little aforementioned issue with the girls. I hated, HATED how they handled the sister’s final story arch. All throughout the film Wichita and Little Rock are portraied as a pair of whip-smart con ladies, and then…
They perform THE dumbest, most nonsensically fucking annoying series of choices and acts possible: #1. They leave, quite possibly, the only two other survivors left in America. Two men, who not only forgave them their trespasses of theft betrayal AND helped to insure their survival, but MEN who also showed no signs of wanton rape or intentions of sexual abuse, despite the fact that there are no more women. It’s astounding. #2. Knowing full well that lights and sound attract the zombie hordes, they intentionally power up arguably the surest source of undead attraction: a theme park. #3. They do this in the middle of the night, in one of the most populated areas in the country. Read that last sentence twice to fully comprehend their unbelievable, yet “supposedly” unintentional death wish. #4. When the zombies inevitably show up, the girls seem surprised. #5. To escape the flesh eating masses, the girls make their “wisest” decision yet, in diving out of their in-motion Hummer and strapping themselves into a sky-tower ride to an end that couldn’t possibly have been seen as ANYTHING but horrifically and mind-numbingly moronic.
This sequence of events pissed—me—off. Not only does it completely go against the girls’ established intelligence, it turns them from bitchin’ femme fatales into dumb-bitch damsels in distress and all but ruins their credibility, creativity and coolness factors in one foul swoop. Stupid, stupid, STUPID!
[EPIC MOMENT AND BEST ONE-LINER]
EP-M: It’s Bill Murray
Simple, it’s Bill Murray, as himself, in a Zombie movie. Try to refute the coolness of that—I dare you.
Tallahassee: You Got A Pretty Mouth!
Sure, it’s taken from another movie, and yeah it’s completely obvious, but I can’t help but love the fact that he’s beating a fat-ass good-ol’-boy zombie to death with a fuckin’ banjo. It just kills me.
[THE MORAL OF THE STORY]
#17. Don’t Be A Hero
#32. Enjoy The Little Things
#69. Emma Stone Is Too Cute For Words
[THE CHECKLIST: 09 outta 25]
[ ] Athlete(s) Turned “Actor”
[X] Clinging To The Outside Of A Moving Vehicle
[ ] Crotch Attack
[X] Dialogue Telling Us How Bad-Ass The Main Character(s) Is/Are
[ ] Ending Featuring An Ambulance, A Blanket or A Towel
[ ] Factory/Warehouse
[ ] Giant Explosion(s)
[X] Heavy Artillery
[X] Improvised Weapon(s)
[X] Macho Mode(s) Of Transportation
[ ] Main Character Sports Facial Accessory(s)
[ ] Manly Embrace(s)
[ ] Notorious Stunt-Man Sighting
[X] Passage(s) Of Time Via Montage
[ ] Politically Fueled Plot Point(s)
[X] Senseless Destruction Of Property
[ ] Shoot Out(s) and/or Sword Fight(s)
[X] Slow-Motion Finishing Move(s)/Death(s)
[ ] Stupid Authoritative Figure(s)
[X] Substance Usage and/or Abuse
[ ] Tis The Season
[ ] Torture Sequence(s)
[ ] Unnecessary Sequel
[ ] Vehicle Chase(s)
[ ] Vigilante Justice
Zombieland (2009) © Columbia Pictures and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment