Andy Bockelman: 'Zombieland' a fun place, but I wouldn't want to live there

'Zombieland'

Rating: 2.5 out of 4 stars

Running time: 80 minutes

Starring: Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin

— When you're dealing with the undead, you have to recognize your enemy. The lurching movement and garbled attempts at speech could be easy to mistake, but if the blood and bits of human sinews spilling out of their mouths don't tip you off, you wouldn't last a day in "Zombieland."

The world is officially overrun by zombies.

No big deal, but if you want to keep your wits about you, you have to follow some rules, like "Always check the back seat" and "Don't be a hero." One young man (Jesse Eisenberg) has survived on these guidelines while making his way across the country, but the isolation is beginning to get to him.

Meeting up with a vigilante cowboy (Woody Harrelson) who drives a Cadillac SUV - complete with a cow catcher welded to the front and the number 3 painted on the side - wasn't exactly what he had in mind, but beggars can't be choosers when the alternative is becoming zombie chow.

They only know each other by their destinations. He goes by the name Columbus, Ohio, while his Florida bound new friend is Tallahassee. Together, they meet up with a pair of siblings who have survived the carnage: Wichita (Emma Stone) and her younger sister, Little Rock (Abigail Breslin).

This motley crew heads west for California amusement park Pacific Playland, the one place in the country fabled to be zombie-free.

Harrelson is hilarious as Tallahassee, a backwater hick who loves Twinkies - But not Sno Balls! - and claims to be in "the ass-kicking business." And business is booming, as is apparent from his methodical approach to killing zombies, be it with a chain saw, shotgun or banjo.

Did someone say, "You got a purty mouth?"

Eisenberg seems destined to forever play sensitive, virginal characters in movies with titles that sound like sections of Disney World. But even right on the heels of "Adventureland," he does his routine just as well as paranoid, introverted Columbus, whose rules for survival continually pop up in the background. No wonder he clings to Wichita considering Stone plays the gritty young grifter with great relish.

Breslin is just as tough as typical 12-year-old Little Rock. You know the kind: loves Hannah Montana and doesn't hesitate to rob you at gunpoint.

But hey, it's every man, woman and tween for themselves in this situation.

Corpses riddled with the human equivalent of mad cow disease make for a lot of laughs, there's no doubt about that. And there's certainly no lack of humor in the latest zombie comedy, or "zom com," if you prefer.

But there's more to it than just watching Tallahassee get his kicks by trying to claim the elusive title of "Zombie Kill of the Week." Just as George A. Romero laced his groundbreaking zombie movies - starting with "Night of the Living Dead" - with subtext about American culture, so does this film continue that grand tradition.

Taking the least likely hero of all in scared-of-his-own-shadow Columbus and forcing him to man up represents the need in all of us to accept the world as it is and follow Tallahassee's sage advice to enjoy the little things. Granted, these words of wisdom from Columbus's new father figure are hardly creative and pertain to snack cakes, but it's just as valuable a lesson as Columbus's second rule of survival: "Double tap."

Seriously though, always make sure that zombie is dead, no matter how many shots it takes.

It may not have quite the dry wit of "Shaun of the Dead," but the strength of "Zombieland" lies in its unceasing action and quick quips. Plus, the surprise cameo helps quite a bit. No hints, but this guy makes Tom Cruise look like a B-lister.

He's a Cinderella boy :

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