Harrelson has had a run of oddball career choices of late, but nothing since "The People vs. Larry Flynt" has suited him as well as the role of Tallahassee, a John Wayne–style zombie hunter who cuts no slack for the ever-starving living dead, doing them in effortlessly as he spends most of the movie searching in vain for the comfort food of his childhood, a Hostess Twinkie. Eisenberg is Columbus (the characters are named after the city they are from), a wuss of wusses whose zombie fears are more than psychological but helped immeasurably by his unlikely teaming with Tallahassee. Essentially, the two embark on the classic road movie, filled with equal doses of laughs, pig-out violence, and action. Seemingly opposites who have somehow attracted, both characters are needy in their own ways and almost touchingly trying to hang onto the last semblance of humanity in a world gone zombiliciously out of control.
The landscape of this deceptively smart flick is one where human beings, the breathing kind, have ceased to exist and their zombie versions roam what's left of the planet. Joining the two male leads as the only "normal" people around are a couple of girls, Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin), who aren't exactly what we think but prove to be the savviest survivors of all. As they join forces with the guys, 2009's most dysfunctional but endearing family unit is formed.
Beyond this foursome there isn't much dimension in the other performances, all stuck in the zombie zone, except one all too brief but priceless cameo by an uncredited superstar who hides under a fright wig and garish makeup to pretend he's a flesh eater so he can get a good starting time at the country club. The episode in which our quartet happen on to his mansion in Beverly Hills is so good we won't spoil it any further, except to urge you to stay all the way through the end credits for the ultimate payoff.
Harrelson is terrific, and so is Eisenberg ("Adventureland"), using his bag of tics and awkwardness to great advantage. Stone, continuing her run of roles that once might have gone to Lindsay Lohan, is ideally cast, and Breslin shows signs of growing up before our eyes, delivering a pitch-perfect comedic performance.
At 87 minutes, the movie has been expertly and breezily directed by newcomer Ruben Fleischer, who keeps it going at a supreme pace. "Zombieland" is flat-out hilarious, a don't-you-dare-miss-it winner!
Written by: Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick
Directed by: Ruben Fleischer
Starring: Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin