Things seem to be picking up quite nicely for my top ten films of 2009 list, because Zombieland was bloody good fun, and as good as I'd hoped it would be.
Make no mistake, this is a comedy that just so happens to take place during a zombie plague - you could pretty much replace zombie with any other creature, or virus and still get the same effect. Characters are the primary focus of the script, and that's what really carries it throughout, as well as a consistent level of comedy.
Not only comedy, but a perfectly balanced sense of sadness and loss, which strikes unexpectedly and powerfully. Even a careful choice of music (David Sardy's "Estasi Dell Anima" for example) can wrong-foot you and make you second guess your assumptions, which makes for thrilling and even moving moments - you find yourself really drawn in and on the edge of your seat at times, or dewy-eyed when a moment of utter seriousness comes along - afterall, this is a world where everyone has lost someone, and this aspect is perfectly weaved throughout the script for all the protagonists.
However, the script does fall down on occasion when the characters make some utterly bloody stupid decisions ... however, being a comedy, with an otherwise tip-top script and a real sense of fun about it, you can easily forgive such transgressions.
Everything about this movie is entertaining - Harrelson's Tallahasse is pure gold, with a tragic past - Eisenberg's Columbus is the oft-seen nice guy nerd who always finishes last, but in this fucked up world finishing first - Stone's Wichita is an easy-on-the-eyes girl-next-door that every guy wants, who has been forced to carry the world on her shoulders - and Breslin's Little Rock is a pleasantly not-annoying movie kid, who has likewise been forced to grow up too soon.
I was a bit disheartened to learn that the director wasn't much for horror (if at all), and had pretty much just watched 28 Days Later and stopped there ... however, he's still pulled out a great flick. I would hope, should there be a sequel, that he avails himself of the work of George Romero.
That's not necessarily a bitch about the whole running zombie issue - unsurprising as he'd only seen 28 Days Later (which is NOT a zombie movie, it's living people with an infection - they can die of starvation, unlike an actual undead zombie) - indeed, Zombieland is one of the flicks on a small list I have of 'running zombie movies' that have gained a 'get out of jail free card' due to them having something far more to offer than just zombies.
In fact, at times there's not a hell of a lot of zombie action going on - again illustrating how it's more about the characters, than the action (which is good) - although you do feel that in a world filled with zombies, there should be hoardes of them roaming around causing havoc. It all seems a bit on the empty side ... but again, the positives from the start out-weigh this ultimately mostly unimportant transgression. Had the writer/director been more of a student of the zombie genre, then I'd figure such an issue would have been dealt with in a more intricate manner - the sort of detail that me and my fellow zed-heads attribute to the undead universe.
Everyone knows by now that Bill Murray has a small role to play at one point in the film, but thankfully I had again been wrong-footed, this time by the rumours. I won't go on to spoil anything (unlike that one berk on the BBC Radio 5 Live film review podcast - a reviewer should know better, goddamnit - actually, they also attributed a certain "rule" to the wrong character, thus misreading quite seriously one particular character dynamic) ... anyway, the whole Bill Murray segment is riotus fun, and it's great to see him getting fully stuck in to the cameo role.
So yeah, a bloody good ride - I just wish it had been ten minutes longer - at a mere 80 minutes it feels a bit cut short, but hopefully there will be an unrated & extended double-disc DVD release (there bloody well should be, considering the box office success it's had).
So yeah, bring on that (hopefully awesome) DVD release! Plus, finally, "the soundtrack kicks fucking ass" - to quote High Fidelity.
My Top Films of 2009 list thus far stands as, in no particular order:
Crank 2: High Voltage
Drag Me To Hell