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Zombie movies, a horror subgenre invented by George Romero in 1968 with Night of the Living Dead, have always had an element of satire to them. That expanded into outright comedy in the mid 1980s when movies like The Evil Dead and Return of the Living Dead figured out that zombies were a great vehicle for reviving Three Stooges-style slapstick (as well as an excuse for more excessive gore than the MPAA had previously allowed). So Zombieland isn’t exactly the groundbreaking movie it sometimes appears to think it is, closer to the self-congratulatory self-consciousness of Scream than the subversiveness of Shaun of the Dead. And while it’s frequently funny in a stoner kind of way, first-time director Ruben Fleischer and writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick don’t so much find humor in their undead antagonists as use them as an excuse for our heroes to let off steam, with bone-crushing violence that the film takes a bit too much delight in. Jesse Eisenberg, the dour young star of The Squid and the Whale and Adventureland, and Woody Harrelson star as two survivors of the underexplained plague that, within a space of two months, has turned most everyone in the world into undead flesh eaters. Priding themselves on their smarts and toughness, they are easily conned by a pair of young girls (Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin) who have their own set of survival skills. Soon the quartet, who call each other by the names of their hometowns so as not to get to close to each other, are on the road to an amusement park in California. Why? Well, they have to go somewhere, movement being an essential part of the formula. Eisenberg and Harrelson have a nice chemistry, and the best part of the movie is the first third, which watches them bouncing off each other. The middle third is largely given to a pointless but funny guest star (if you’re lucky you won’t know who it is prior to seeing the movie). The movie peters out with a zombie-vs.-humans battle that includes way too many instances of our heroes doing stupid things in order to keep the plot movie along. And speaking of stupid, someone explain this to me: I’ll accept for the sake of argument that movie zombies want to eat human flesh. But why do they always seem to go for intestines? Is that the tastiest part of us?

m. faust

Watch the trailer for Zombieland

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