I went to see Zombieland. It’s not a movie I’d normally go see, especially since the trailers I’ve seen make do it absolutely no service whatsoever. In fact, the trailers are what made me not want to see the movie at all. The makers of these trailers have made the film look completely unappealing. They are utter failures, and they should know this. But I went anyway, mostly because I was asked to go by a cute girl. And, despite my expectations, I enjoyed the movie. I’m not the type to deny these things. But it’s also the dumbest movie I’ve ever seen. (spoilers follow, because I don’t care)
I said as much as all that to my companion. Zombieland is a very stupid movie, but I don’t mean that in the common sense of uninteresting, boring, or without worth. This movie is dumb the way some people, and lots of dogs, are dumb. And just like it such people aren’t intrinsically good or bad, and these dogs are often the most endearing, being a dumb movie doesn’t exclude Zombieland from being enjoyable, or even from being good. It just means that the movie is stupid, as in it’s not very bright.
Look, Zombieland is a movie about Woody Harrelson and Jesse Eisenberg killing zombies in an amusement park. On their way, they go to Bill Murray’s house where they find Bill Murray dressed as a zombie so that he can play golf undisturbed by real zombies. Then, mistaking Bill Murray for a real Bill Murray zombie, Jesse Eisenberg kills him. See what I mean? It sounds really stupid when it’s told to you, but in the movie, it works. Harrelson is (way) miscast as an unfunny parody of a zombie-slaying badass, who desperately fiends for Twinkies and ends the film wearing a snakeskin jacket. But it works. Jesse Eisenberg is the shirky nerdy virgin who has miraculously survived on his own thus far, only to become suddenly incapable of looking after himself as soon as we join the action. But it works. Emma Stone lugs her forehead around playing a less than two-dimensional femme fatale who, of course, needs rescuing by the aforementioned shirky nerd virgin. Abigail Breslin plays a prop. But it all works. I have no idea how.
I don’t know why this film succeeds where others fail. Zombieland should be bad. It is bad. The characters are all named for where they’re from. You know, so they don’t get too attached to each other. Tallahassee (Harrelson), Columbus (Eisenberg), Wichita (Stone) and Little Rock (Breslin [this, despite the fact that the two girls are supposed to be sisters]). The dialogue for Tallahassee – “Time to nut up or shut up!” – sounds like it was written by a fourteen year old’s erection. Not the fourteen year old, just his erection. At one point it is revealed that when Tallahassee says zombies killed his dog, what really means is that they killed his son. And the movie commits sin number one in having narrative voice over explain to us all the emotions the actors are trying to express on screen, the extent of complication to which amounts to sympathy for a man whose son was eaten by the undead. This, of course, while the photos of the boy are in extreme close up. This is what I mean by the film is dumb. In addition to having an unconvincing haphazard storyline (and before you use the it’s-only-a-zombie-movie defense, there a tons of zombie movies that have perfectly convincing stories), it is emotionally stunted, and treats its audience as if we all were just as incapable of understanding these weird things humans have called “feelings.” And yet, I have happy memories of my time with the film.
There are many films of the “it’s just entertainment, man” type that have failed wholesale and I’m not sure what it is Zombieland has that these others don’t. But that’s not the point. The point is that when I expressed my opinion to the cute girl, I was rebuffed. Somehow, my opinion was invalid, despite the fact that I liked the movie and was not really criticizing it (yet). I changed subject, feeling a bit like I’d been painted, with a very scratchy brush, as a snooty intellectual incapable of enjoying myself. And, you know, I get it. Movies are entertainment, they’re supposed to be fun. I’ve never said otherwise. I have never insisted that every movie I see must be a deeply metaphorical black-and-white Slovakian drama from 1957. I don’t like deeply metaphorical black-and-white Slovakian dramas from any time period. And yet that is what I’m often accused of, in so many words.
So what gives, haters? What’s the deal? If a man doesn’t like Transformers, is he suddenly allowed only to enjoy cartoons from The New Yorker? Thinking movies should be well made and believably acted and look good while also being entertaining and fun does not make me a some kind of out of touch blueblooded art critic, you know. Good God people, I don’t even read the Village Voice. Anti-intellectualism aimed at people who aren’t even particularly intellectual is just being ugly and hateful. For shame. I like car chases and gun fights and explosions and spaceships. I’m not one of “them”. I’m with you. I like fun movies and I like going with a cute girl (the same cute girl, many, many times, so much so I got an apartment with her near a movie theater). Just because I don’t like the bad movies that you do like, doesn’t mean I also poo-poo the good ones. And for the last time, I don’t even know why we’re arguing – I liked Zombieland, okay?