By Thomas Tracy
A world overrun by flesh-eating corpses becomes a backdrop for a heart-gushing story about relationships in “Zombieland,” a dramedy with probably one of the largest body counts in cinema history.
In a film short on backstory and big on blood and gore, soft-spoken, neurotic loner Columbus (all of the characters are named after their town of origin) finds the meaning of family as he and a motley crew of survivors from the zombie apocalypse (caused by some kind of virus, at least we think) go on a cross country road trip to a legendary walking dead-free theme park in California.
Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg, “Adventureland”) has survived this long by following a list of staunch survival rules which includes buckling up, keeping up with your cardio, never using a public bathroom, and making sure you “double tap” each zombie, because sometimes one bullet to the brain box just doesn’t cut it.
Those rules slowly go by the wayside with humorous outcomes when he starts teaming up with the unhinged Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson, “No Country For Old Men”) and flim-flamming sisters Wichita (Emma Stone, “Superbad”) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin, “My Sister’s Keeper”).
For the next hour and a half, they’re the only four people we see with good skin. Everyone else is a pock-marked, black- or red-eyed eating machine that Tallahassee gets a sick pleasure of killing in some of the most disgusting ways possible.
While Harrelson gets most of the laughs (with the exception of Bill Murray, who plays himself in a cameo), the story is all about Eisenberg and his hunger for a human connection in a world where everyone’s hungry for flesh. He may be afraid someone will wolf it down, but Columbus wears his heart on his sleeve, showing that humanity still exists in a place where humans have mutated into whack-a-moles — or, should we say, whack-a-zombies.
“Zombieland.” Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson and Emma Stone. Directed by Ruben Fleishcher. Running time: 82 minutes. Rated R for horror violence/gore and language.