Zombieland, Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg

Columbia Pictures

Review in a Hurry: Zombieland looks on the bright side of an undead apocalypse: You can take what you want, smash anything you like, and if you meet a beautiful girl your age, she's probably single and desperate. Just avoid those nasty flesh eaters.

The Bigger Picture: Rarely has such wanton, gleeful destruction been as unapologetically unleashed onscreen. Sure, there have been bigger explosions and stuff, but usually with some degree of suspense or sincerity, as opposed to catering to that base, immature impulse inside all of us that goes, "Uh-huh, breaking stuff is cool!"

It would ultimately be a bummer if most people in the world died, but at least for a little while, the idea that no one can tell you what to do—and that everything is up for grabs—feels like kid-in-a-candy-store time.

The zombies here are the 28 Days Later kind, more or less: people with a bad mutant strain of mad cow disease who can run, climb and fight with reasonable effectiveness. Fortunately, they're also stupid and run toward any kind of noise. Skinny shut-in and hypochondriac Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) is thus perfectly equipped to survive—he's been superparanoid all his life, and is slim 'n' trim with good cardio training.

Also, Columbus isn't his real name, but his hometown...Everyone here uses such pseudonyms so as not to get too attached to an actual human being with a real name who may become corpse-chow any minute.

En route from Texas to see if his parents in Ohio have made it, he encounters Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), a drinkin'-and-drivin', good ol' boy zombie killer—maybe a distant cousin of Matthew McConaughey's tattooed dragon slayer in Reign of Fire—who's on a quest for the last Twinkie in America.

This journey leads them to a grocery store containing surviving sisters Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin), con women who quickly separate the less-bright fellas from their vehicle and guns. It's California they're heading for—and an amusement park that is reportedly zombie-free.

The irony, of course, is that the whole country has pretty much become an amusement park of sorts, especially since the electricity is still on and zombies don't seem to have damaged any power plants yet.

No zombie movie would be complete without an element of social satire—here, Tallahassee represents the overseas caricature of America as a reckless cowboy that has fun running roughshod as the world goes to hell. Thankfully for that analogy, he also ultimately has his heart in the right place.

The 180—a Second Opinion: It's best not to think too much about the logistics of things, like the fact that carnival rides don't move by themselves, without an operator.


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