Ever wonder what Shaun of the Dead would’ve been like if it had been an American studio film? Well, I suspect it’d have been bigger and broader in every facet of the game. It’d have more action, more violence, more bodily humor, more star wattage. And it’d probably be less droll, less unconventional, and less memorable. In short, it would probably have been much like Ruben Fleischer’s well-meaning but frothy Zombieland. Don’t get me wrong — Zombieland is a decently fun Friday night, and most of the audience clearly enjoyed it more than I did. But it felt very by-the-numbers to me, and I suspect I’ll remember very little about it after a few weeks, even if the dread zombie apocalypse doesn’t happen between now and then.
So, what’s the rumpus? Well, after a quick breakdown of the rules of surviving said zompocalypse (For example, “Rule 1: Cardio…Fatties die first“), Zombieland basically follows the travails of five of the last humans on Earth. There’s:
I’ll concede that I’m probably being harder on Zombieland than it deserves. It’s a harmless thrill-ride-type entertainment, and I’ll bet it was quite a bit better than a lot of the past summer’s tentpole releases, most of which I skipped. (I’m looking at you, X-Men Joeformers: Salvation.) Still, maybe I’m just an insufferable zombie-snob — this isn’t The Walking Dead or World War Z by any means — but I left Zombieland feeling underwhelmed. To me, it just felt by-the-numbers, with a tired “family is what you make it” plot and a certain laziness — how is the power on everywhere, by the way? — about it. And if anything, the zombies, never once very frightening, seem like a plot convenience more than anything else.
Also, it’s hard to escape the nagging sensation that this movie is basically just Shaun of the Dead for mooks. This feeling isn’t helped by the earlier-mentioned Family Guy-isms, or the Beavis-and-Butthead-y “I like breakin’ things!” messaging of the middle-going. (Sometimes it’s not even Fleischer’s fault — On its own, the slo-mo credit sequence is good, imaginative fun, but it also can’t help but recall the very similar Watchmen opening, which then involuntarily brings to mind the current mook-King of Hollywood, Zack Snyder.)
Lemme put it this way: Throughout the movie, the previously-established Zombie Rules — “Beware of Bathrooms,” “Double-Tap,” “Don’t be a Hero” — will flash up on the screen whenever they become pertinent. This often gives Zombieland the feel of the introductory levels — “Press X to jump” — of a not-very-interactive xBox game. And, while I can’t say I had a bad time at Zombieland, it’s hard to shake the sense that that 81 minutes would’ve been much better spent at home, playing Left 4 Dead. Now there’s a zombie-killing quartet I can get behind.