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Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) wants a Twinkie. As far as things to do at the end of the world go, noshing on a golden spongy snack cake is as noble a goal as any other. Those things might be bad for you, but not nearly as bad as the entire population wanting to nosh on you. In Zombieland, you need to take time to enjoy the little things.

In Zombieland the movie, you have a lot of little things to enjoy. Writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick created a Twinkie of a script; maybe it's not all that nutritious as movies go, but it sure tastes good going down. With director Ruben Fleischer, it's really more a whole box - because you want another one, don't you?

Narrated by Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), the movie offers the irony of survivors who weren't all that connected to humanity when it was thriving. Even after a variation of mad cow disease alters the planet, Columbus and his cohorts can't seem to be bothered with the entanglement of knowing each other's real names. It's just so much easier that way.

Except they are bonding together in a way that few movies of the genre allow. Despite calling each other by the names of their home towns, the four survivors manage to tentatively make connections, becoming real without the movie bogging down in treacle. Even when a devastating truth about Harrelson's character comes pouring out - more devastating than the realization that he's essentially a psycho in paradise, but our kind of psycho - Fleischer leavens the moment. This is, after all, a comedy, but it has something better than a cream center. Zombieland has a little heart.

And it's dripping through the teeth of the undead.

The movie doesn't shirk from the gore. In fact, it kind of revels in it, letting the audience explore the thrills of creative zombie-killing. Perhaps it's a side effect of too many violent video games, as young Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) suggests. But again, if you're fighting for your very survival, you might as well try to be creative about it.

Yet Fleischer trusts the script and the actors with long stretches of characters sparring. You might even root for Eisenberg starting a relationship with Wichita (Emma Stone), and not just because they'd be humanity's only hope for a next generation. Zombieland is too knowing, and the character of Columbus too legitimately dorky, to make it that simple an argument.

The film also stops for an hilarious sequence involving a celebrity cameo. No spoiler here beyond it being a chance for that actor to spoof the Hollywood lifestyle and take shots at himself with good humor.

Everywhere the movie turns it's good-natured and clever. Zombieland makes a good early Halloween treat, and the kind of movie that should stand up to repeated viewings. It's junk food, but every now and then, nothing else will do.


Derek McCaw

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