Four travelers navigate the zombie apocalypse.
Bloody funny and surprisingly romantic, with one of the best surprise cameos in years.
Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin.
You've seen gory zombie movies and funny zombie movies, but have you ever seen a gory, funny, endearing, romantic zombie movie?
Actually, I have, and it was called "Night of the Comet," an underrated gem from 1984 that married John Hughes to George A. Romero. That's a fair description of "Zombieland," too, though this film ups the gonzo ante with "Jackass"-style sight gags (the second-story piano is a good one) and the kind of pop-culture savvy that didn't exist 25 years ago (look for a marvelous surprise appearance by a major star).
The secret ingredient is a sensitive streak running through all the black vomit and snapping entrails. It's embodied by Jesse Eisenberg ("Adventureland"), once again playing an Asperger-ish teenage misfit. Here he's called Columbus, as in Ohio. "No names," says tough-guy Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), who prefers to avoid emotional attachments.
But attachments form when the guys meet pretty Wichita (Emma Stone) and young Little Rock (Abigail Breslin). Together they traverse the zombie landscape, heading for a California amusement park called Pacific Playland that may (or may not) be ghoul-free.
There's no plot; the action scenes are mostly launched by Tallahassee's eternal quest for an intact Twinkie. Instead, director Ruben Fleischer and screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick focus on the chemistry between the four actors, who are clearly having a ball: Harrelson mugs wonderfully, Eisenberg stutters charmingly, Stone emerges as more than a token hottie, and Breslin plays a hardhearted tweener who, nevertheless, misses Hannah Montana.
In the end, we learn the real name of only one character, and it's a lovely moment. It comes, of course, after several zombies get their brains splattered all over the screen.