Friday, 23 October 2009

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Zombieland

Here is now the final part of the comedy trilogy which I have been reviewing this month, starting with the absolutely dreadful Paul Blart: Mall Cop, the perfectly watchable Role Models, and finally, Zombieland. Whether or not the pattern of the movies getting better continues you will find in due course of the review. To get us into context, Zombieland has been one of the more low-key comedies of the year, but as of late, has become a bit of a sleeper hit, having grossed over $60 million on a $23.6 million budget, and has the great privilege, if there can be such a thing, of being the highest-grossing zombie film of all time. In Zombieland, we follow the travels of Colombus, played by Jesse Eisenberg, during the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse. Along the way, he meets Tallahasee, played by Woody Harrelson, and the sisters Wichita and Little Rock, during which all manner of chaos occurs for comedic purposes. Whilst chaos and wanton destruction does occur to a great degree here, it is not without reason. In the context of a zombie apocalyspe, most of the stuff here is proportionally funny and not overly ridiculous, unlike many of the Apatow-esque comedies of the moment, which attempt to turn a real-life story into the most ridiculous thing possible, and as such are completely out of balance. The gags in this movie are quick-firing, sharp and completely dead on for timing for much of the way throughout the film. The four leads each play their roles to varying degrees of quality. Jesse Eisenberg gives a great bash at playing the slightly creepy college student, and is a suitably relatable precence in the film, despite his obvious issues. Emma Stone does her job competently, but unfortunately just serves the purpose of window dressing, while Abigail Breslin does a decent job, but her character really is undeveloped like that of Stone. Rather unfortunately for the young actors in the film, it is Woody Harrelson's Tallahasee who really steals the show. Harrelson has always been a great actor, and there is a certain wicked sense of humour which injects into his characters that has made many of his performances so memorable, and it is this sense of humour completely blown up to 11 which makes this character so funny. Harrelson, like his character, seems to have unleashed his inner child, and gives what I feel to be thus far perhaps the best supporting actor role of the year, with a character that could have been your archetypal crazy guy given some life by the ever great Harrelson. Also, first-time director Ruben Fleischer does a good job on what could have absolutely anarchy for a debuting director. My final real pro with regards to this film is, well, two different things combined, but that is the look of the film. From the 60's to the early 80's, you could get away with slightly dodgy looking art direction by covering up with some inventive cinematography, take Jaws for perhaps the best example. Today, audiences are unconvinced and must see a vision onscreen. Like District 9, I feel that they did a perfectly good job in the portrayal of the zombie apocolyspe, shooting well, even if they do at times work their way around it. Though not technically a "zombie" film, I still think the film that portrayed a social epidemic such as this was Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later. Unfortunately, as it always seems to, it comes down to the big however. Despite the fact that this is a solid comedy, which I thought was the best comedy of the year bar Bruno, there are a number of real flaws in the film, much to my annoyance considering my enthusiasm towards the film. Firstoff, the two female characters in the film do not really serve any great character purpose, and are just there for more jokes. I'm sorry, I thought they both did very well, but the male characters do dominate the film. Also, there is an obvious imbalance with regards to the jokes and characters. While obviously Tallahasee is meant as a character to get the big woop-woop laughs and Eisenberg the giggles, Stone and Breslin do not really draw as many laughs, and as such become dull as characters, despite perfectly decent performances. Also rather unfortunately, whilst the film is only 88 minutes and is a lean piece of work in many respects, they made the right decision in the cutoff point, because near the end, the film does start to drag on, in great contrast to earlier on. Really, there is only so many variations on the zombie joke before it wears thin. Finally, rather like this year's Drag Me To Hell, it does not strive to be any greater than it is. Granted, it is nice to have rollarcoaster movies like this at times, every movie should strive to be great. With regards to horror-comedy, An American Werewolf In London for one breaks out of it's rollercoaster leashes and becomes a genuinely fantastically funny and terrifying work of art. Here, it does not do much but serve to conjure a few laughes. Please don't take this as an ending on a downer. Overall, I enjoyed the film very much, got a good few laughs out, and Woody Harrelson excels in a great performance.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 7.3/10
The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Pretty happy

1 comment:

Jack's complete lack of surprise said...

I just want to thank you for what you're doing here. You don't pretend to be a giant authority on film, and you don't condescend like some reviewers do. You simply give us your humble opinion as a cinophile, and that gives your reviews an honesty. And I think you have great taste.