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Published: Monday, 10/5/2009

Movie review: Zombieland ****


In the months after the zombie apocalypse, brought on by a virulent mutation of Mad Cow Disease, America has ceased to be.

The few survivors don't use names but hometowns as their monikers. They travel the Interstates in sturdy GM SUVs, loaded with weapons, looking for refuge. They listen to heavy metal - "(Don't Fear) The Reaper," of course. In this United States of Zombieland, all they want are "the little things" - like Twinkies.

Zombieland is the funniest zombie movie since Shawn of the Dead, funnier even than Fido. This is a 28 Days Later played for laughs - lots of them, endless jokes, one-liners, and sight gags.

That nebbish's nebbish Jesse Eisenberg (Adventureland) plays our narrator - a survivor not because he's tough but because he's smart. He lives by a long set of

post-zombie rules, rules that flash on the screen each time he applies one to some life-threatening situation - "Rule 1, Cardio." Run, because "the first ones to go were the fatties," "Rule 3, Beware of Bathrooms," and "Rule 17, Don't be a hero."

The kid is making his way home to Columbus, where he grew up. "Columbus," that's what the snarling zombie-killer (Woody Harrelson) driving an Escalade that he has painted Dale Earnhardt's No. 3 on, calls him. "Tallahassee" is all action - guns and baseball bats and lawn-care implements, all employed killing zombies as he prowls empty stores looking for the last Twinkie in Zombieland.

"Believe it or not, Twinkies have an expiration date."

These two mismatched companions run up on some survivor sisters - Wichita (Emma Stone, all Zooey bangs and too much makeup) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin), but "trust issues" stand in the way of their traveling as a quartet.

Director Ruben Fleischer and writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, complete unknowns, pepper this script with snark and wit. Black humor flows as thick and black as the blood the zombies spurt and the bile the zombies vomit.

It's still just a dumb zombie movie, but at least in Zombieland, they know "Living Dead" is the biggest joke of all.

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