If you like your films full of laughs and gore, then “Zombieland” is just for you - a rather mindless bit of fun with a strong cast milking every ounce of entertainment out of a pretty clever premise.
Jesse Eisenberg from “Adventureland” stars as Columbus, a neurotic college student trying to survive after Earth’s population has been decimated by a mad cow-related disease that turns people into flesh-eating zombies.
Columbus is hoping to get back home to see if his family is still alive, but his plans change after he joins forces with a redneck zombie slayer named Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) and two sisters (Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin). The quartet sets out on a cross-country trip to California, hoping to find a rumored safe haven for Earth’s last survivors.
With a smart and funny screenplay from Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick as a blueprint, director Ruben Fleischer gets plenty of mileage out of “Zombieland.” There are plenty of laughs between the icky moments, including a surprise cameo that is best left a secret.
The four leads also help make “Zombieland” a lot of fun. Eisenberg is the perfect unlikely protagonist, while Harrelson makes an amusing sidekick. Stone and Breslin are also very good in their respective roles.
If there are any complaints about “Zombieland,” I’d have to concede that there really isn’t much of a point here - except to serve as mindless entertainment. On that level, “Zombieland” more than succeeds, giving audiences a chance to put their brains on autopilot and just enjoy the show.
Also in theaters
This week’s other new release, “Whip It” (B), is also a pretty commercial puff piece, but like “Zombieland,” it succeeds on its own level. The directorial debut of Drew Barrymore is a light and entertaining slice of girl power with another strong performance from Ellen Page.
The “Juno” star plays Bliss, a teenager in a small Texas town unhappy with her life as a beauty pageant contestant (an activity she is only doing to please her demanding mother, played by Marcia Gay Harden).
Bliss’ life changes when she takes a trip to nearby Austin to attend a Roller Derby event. After the show, she is urged to come back to tryouts by one of the participants. Bliss makes the team and soon discovers a world completely different from her sheltered life.
Barrymore proves to be a competent director, taking on a project that doesn’t need too much detail, thanks to Shauna Cross’ strong screenplay.
Barrymore is also aided by a pretty strong cast - including Harden, Daniel Stern, Kristen Wiig and Juliette Lewis.
But the film’s real strength comes from Page - in a role similar to, but not the same as, her Oscar-nominated role in “Juno.” There is a little more vulnerability and self-doubt in this character and Page does a great job of handling those subtle traits.
It’s clear that the camera loves the 21-year-old Page, who is quickly becoming one of the best young actresses working today.
“Whip It” is rated PG-13 for sexual content including crude dialogue, language and drug material and is now playing at the Great Escape 12.
— Sportswriter/movie reviewer Micheal Compton has just come back from Nashville to see “Capitalism: A Love Story.” To get his thoughts on the Michael Moore film, visit his blog at http://mcompton.wordpress.com or visit his Twitter page at www.twitter.com/mcompton428. E-mails are also welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.