There really aren’t enough apocalyptic comedies. Sure, you’ve got the likes of Shaun of the Dead and This is the End, and, at a push, Disaster Movie, but ultimately, laugh-out-loud doomsday stories are pretty thin on the ground.
Poking fun at the end of days isn’t an exact science, and the few films that have tried have achieved mixed success; Disaster Movie was an absolute *ahem* disaster, This is the End was somewhat hit and miss, and Shaun of the Dead holds up impeccably. Zombieland lands decisively on the favourable side of the scale, but it’s certainly not without its flaws.
Zombieland tells the story of Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), a neurotic and incredibly anxious survivor of the zombie apocalypse, as he meets and travels with other suvivors Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin). Bill Murray also appears in what is possibly the most memorable cameo appearance of all time.
Despite an outstanding cast, Zombieland was helmed by first-timer Ruben Fleischer in his feature film debut. Makeup designer Tony Gardner, who helped Rick Baker on the iconic music video for Thriller, was brought on to design the film’s zombies.
While Zombieland might be a fairly straightforward zombie comedy, an incredible amount of loving detail went into creating the film. The many, many zombies featured look remarkably real (and gross), due in no small part to the use of practical effects and extensive makeup, and visually speaking, there’s very little to criticize. The use of Columbus’s Zombieland “rules” as on-screen text are a particularly fun choice, adding a little much-needed comedic levity to what could have otherwise been incredibly disturbing scenes.
Each of the film’s main actors deliver solid performances, with Harrelson in particular adding just the right touch of unexpected emotion to proceedings.
Unfortunately (although not unpredictably), there’s very little narrative sense to the film. The characters all have individual destinations when deciding to travel together, but decide (I think, it’s never really explained) to head to a theme park together in the hopes that it’s free of the living dead.
It might not be a particularly solid story or even the best written film, but its overall design is all but perfect, and there’s something to be said for the way it’s able to wring genuine laughs out of the end of the world. It’s maybe not for the most discerning of film fans, but its a ridiculous and genuinely entertaining movie for those with a particular itch to scratch.
Summary: It’s not the smartest, but it’s a well-made disaster-comedy that takes a light look at the end of the world.