(Columbia) Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin, Bill Murray, Amber Heard, Derek Graf, Mike White, April Rich, Jacob C. Akins, Joan Schuermeyer, Shaun Lynch, Lynn McArthur, Michelle Sebek. Directed by Ruben Fleischer
When zombies take over the world, the remaining humans will have to adapt to not being the dominant species on the planet anymore. They will have to be ruthless, tough and pitiless. In other words, they’ll have to become assholes.
The movie is narrated by Columbus (Eisenberg), a somewhat timid nebbish attending the University of Texas in Austin who is trying to return home to Ohio to see if his parents are all right – not so much out of concern but out of curiosity since, as he repeatedly tells us during the movie, he and his parents aren’t close.
An early encounter with a comely neighbor (Heard) who becomes zombiefied leads him to develop a series of rules for survival. I won’t go over all of them but they are accompanied by graphical representations that become part of the action in amusing ways. He meets up with a redneck zombie asskicker who calls himself Tallahassee (Harrelson) because he doesn’t want to get attached to anybody by learning their real names, so he assigns everyone – including himself – a designation based on their eventual destination.
Tallahassee has several quirks, most notable of which is his single-minded obsession with Twinkies. He looks for the golden snack cakes everywhere he can, without success. On one such venture into a grocery store, they meet Wichita (Stone) and her little sister Little Rock (Breslin) who turn out to be con artists, stealing their firearms and their wheels.
After finding a hummer loaded up with big guns (“Thank God for rednecks” exclaims Tallahassee), they go out in search of the girls who robbed them and find them – only to get duped again. However, this time the girls allow the boys to come along. They’re headed to Pacific Playland, an amusement park just outside of Los Angeles which is reportedly zombie-free. Wichita confesses that she knows it’s unlikely but she wants to give her sister a chance at being a child one last time.
They crash at the mansion of Bill Murray only to find the great comedian fully human and in residence. He is dressed and made up to look like a zombie, mainly so he could go out and play golf. Columbus is starting to fall for Wichita, but both are wary of getting close to anyone in a world where death is around every corner.
This is the kind of movie that is going to achieve cult status relatively easily. It’s full of sight gags and plenty of gore. Better still, it has a sense of its own hipness and is chock full of easily memorable lines that teenagers across the country are going to be crowing back and forth to one another, either in person on school grounds or on social networking sites. I wonder how many “It’s time to nut up or shut up” statuses are going to be seen in the next couple of weeks? I’m sure some dweeb somewhere is counting.
Eisenberg plays as a kind of Michael Cera lite throughout although he does break away from that persona every now and again. However, it’s Woody Harrelson who steals the movie as the redneck with the big time Twinkie Jones. He’s amusing and his timing is dead on (we sometimes forget that he got his start on “Cheers”). He has more depth to him than any of the other characters and being the veteran actor he is, uses every bit of it to flesh out his role (pun intended).
Unfortunately, the girls are little more than afterthoughts, particularly Breslin who is criminally underutilized. They have almost nothing compelling about them and quite frankly, the movie could very easily have done without them. Basically Wichita is in the movie to belabor the point that Columbus is a virgin (and how often will I ever get the opportunity to write lines like that?) and as attractive as Stone is, she never quite captures the attention onscreen as ladies like Megan Fox have been lately.
My son saw an early screening of this movie and proclaimed it as the funniest movie of the year. I was a bit skeptical myself, until I saw a scene where the Jesse Eisenberg character was depicted hunkered down in his apartment on a Friday night, playing Worlds of Warcraft and drinking Mountain Dew Code Red. In other words, pretty much one of Jacob’s Peeps.
This is definitely a movie for rednecks; at the screening we were at there were a couple of loud and obnoxious ones sitting in the row ahead of us. Jethro and Bubba’s commentary was completely unnecessary and further illustrates why Mystery Science Theater 3000 wasn’t recruiting from the Dukes of Hazzard crowd.
The movie is reasonably entertaining and director Fleischer shows a lot of imagination and promise. This was meant to be an American answer to Shaun of the Dead and while it isn’t completely successful at least manages to take some potshots at a few American sacred cows. I was a bit more taken by it than Da Queen was and a bit less in love with it than my son was. It’s decent entertainment and for the most part, as long as you don’t mind gore and poo-poo humor, you won’t walk away from the multiplex feeling you wasted your ten bucks.
REASONS TO GO: Fleischman shows some promise, with clever graphics and plenty of violent things done to the undead. Woody Harrelson takes this movie in hand and shows that while he has been a character actor in recent years, is very capable of carrying a movie on his own. The midnight movie hipness quotient is off the charts.
REASONS TO STAY: The female characters are totally unnecessary and Eisenberg continues to remind me why I find Michael Cera so annoying.
FAMILY VALUES: There’s plenty of gore, horror violence, foul language and some sexuality; in other words, not for kids.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Tallahassee writes the numeral 3 on the side of all his trucks during the course of the film as a tribute to the late Dale Earnhardt.
HOME OR THEATER: Load up on the pork rinds and Budweisers, settle back in your recliner and be prepared to slow-mo all the parts where the zombies are blowed up real good. Give me a Hell Yeah! No, a Hell Yeah, not a Yeehaw!
FINAL RATING: 7/10
TOMORROW: Pierrepoint: The Last Hangman