Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000 to 2009.
Equal parts John Hughes and John Carpenter, 2009’s Zombieland perfected the romantic zombie comedy elements of the good, but insanely overpraised, Shaun of the Dead.
That its climactic sequence takes place in an amusement park — coincidentally the first time a film has successfully pulled that off — is fitting. Much like a rollercoaster, this is a loosey-goosey exercise in controlled fear and nervous laughter — with Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin battling the undead in a world overrun by zombies.
As rambunctiously funny as Zombieland is, it’s not without weight. Opening with a slow-motion tableau of terribly messy blood, vomit and bullets set to Metallica, it’s post-apocalyptic and postmodern all at once.
Eisenberg has settled into playing earthy, earnest men of words and convincingly grapples with an amusing central question: Can one learn to live when surrounded by the undead? Comparatively, Harrelson has a double-barrel hoot with his Snake Plissken vibe, but his rambunctious sass conceals a burden on his soul.
Stone’s husky-throated sweetness and gravitational sexual pull lures Eisenberg. If anyone gets short shrift, it’s Breslin, although her lament in a zombie-riddled world — being deprived of an enjoyable childhood — is more abstract.
In his directorial debut, Ruben Fleischer told this story with an equal knack for visual flair and effective performances (plus the Greatest. Cameo. Ever.).
Even at their most worrywart moments, these characters are proactive, and Zombieland legitimately sells facing fears, taking stances and being brave when a life’s on the line that’s not your own.