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Review: Zombieland 1.1

Over the last decade, the popularity of the zombie genre has spread exponentially like the fictitious plague depicted in film and television. Ten years ago, it would have been impossible to imagine a weekly television series set in the midst of the undead onslaught, but AMC's The Walking Dead has come along and shattered preconceived notions of what could be done on television. As part of its initial 13-project development slate, Amazon Studios ordered a pilot for a series based on the surprise hit 2009 horror-comedy Zombieland, which starred Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, and Abigail Breslin as four survivors who find each other and form a new post-apocalyptic family unit.

Zombieland: The SeriesAlthough the film took in over $100 million on a budget of $23.6 million, the series is working on a much lower budget and couldn't afford movie-star salaries to bring back the original cast, so the roles have been recast with virtual unknowns. For fans of the movie, that will be the biggest stumbling block for this potential series because the original actors were so memorable in bringing these characters to life.

However jarring it is at first to see new faces playing the same characters, the cast generally succeeds in owning the roles by the end of the pilot episode. While Kirk Ward looks more like Will Ferrell than Woody Harrelson, he brings his own laidback slacker style to Tallahassee and won me over with his freakout scene after yet another survivor they find dies comically. He has more of an everyman vibe to him, as does Tyler Ross filling Jesse Eisenberg's shoes as Columbus. Perhaps because he is a fresh face, Ross comes across as more earnest and relatable in the role, like a young Tom Hanks. His comic timing is solid and he plays the quintessential straight man quite well.

The low budget is obvious from the beginning with rudimentary zombie effects — compared to The Walking Dead, Zombieland resembles a fan-made YouTube video — but fortunately, Zombieland's strengths lie in humor and heart. More comedy than horror, the pilot hits its mark more often than it misses and delivers some genuine laughs, best exemplified by the storyline in the pilot episode. Aided by a surviving OnStar operator in Detroit, our protagonists' search for other survivors to add to their group is consistently met with death and tragic irony, resulting in some funny visual gags. The pre-apocalypse opening scene is another highlight, featuring two co-workers complaining about their mundane and petty "#firstworldproblems" with iPhones and Starbucks, oblivious to the zombie plague springing up outside the window behind them.

Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, the writing duo behind the film, had originally envisioned Zombieland as a TV series and they bring the franchise's trademarks to the pilot episode, including the "Zombie Kill of the Week" and the "Zombieland Rules" list created by Columbus. These are clever devices and help to make Zombieland unique. Zombieland: The Series"Kill of the Week" especially provides an opportunity for some truly over-the-top moments that need no setup or context; just have a dude roll a giant ball down a ramp and squish a zombie, no further explanation necessary. There is also an effective shock during the scene with the elderly zombies that momentarily made me think they were already killing off a main character, only to reveal a gag I don't recall seeing in a zombie movie before. The "two more angels in heaven" banter after violently dispatching the undead seniors cracked me up as well.

The recasting of such well-known actors didn't inspire much hope in this project, nor did the trailer released last week, but Zombieland's pilot episode definitely shows potential as a regular series. By the end of the episode, helmed by Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil director Eli Craig, the cast made me forget about the original actors and developed a family-like chemistry that will only improve with time as they gel together. Keep in mind Zombieland is first and foremost a comedy, without any of the usual horror trappings beyond the presence of zombies — no real scares, excessive gore, suspense, nudity, or foreboding doom of any kind. For some viewers, that will be a turn-off, but others will appreciate being able to watch the show without fear of losing their lunch. Clocking in at just under a half-hour, Zombieland doesn't overstay its welcome and serves as a tongue-in-cheek counterbalance to the relentlessly grim and ultra-serious world of The Walking Dead.

FINAL GRADE: B


Details
Network:
- LATV
Person:
- Eli Craig
Show:
- Zombieland

Written by: Chrononaut
Apr 21st, 2013, 5:53 am

Images courtesy of Amazon.Com

AnonymousJ

Message Posted On May 11th, 2013, 8:46 am
I LOVE ZOMBIES
Anonymous

Message Posted On Apr 27th, 2013, 1:06 pm
tvpirate42, sorry your taste in shows is so bad. Changes of actors are not always bad- look at NBC's "Hannibal", new set of AMAZING actors that have taken complete ownership of the roles. Meanwhile, Zombieland is a joke. Most people with any modicum of taste think so. Here, have a look at this really spot-on review. io9(dot)com/the-zombieland-tv-series-is-a-cheap-bootleg-of-zombiela-477258349
tvpirate42

Level 1 (16%)
Since: 19/Jan/13
Message Posted On Apr 24th, 2013, 5:50 pm

matt4848, this is not Amazon you are stupid.  

 

The show is great, get off their backs, haters!  This was originally supposed to be a TV show anyway, get over the change of actors and get over the product placement because that is where we are headed (netflix, amazon) nothing you can do about it.  

Bigmoco - I have also seen Betas, which is terrable compared to Zombieland.  

Anonymous -  Bruce Campbell would probably jump at the chance to be in this show.

Anonymous

Message Posted On Apr 21st, 2013, 1:33 pm
Sorry I lost my interest at the product placement every 2 min. The working Onstar system, the high school humor level and bland story. I can deal with recast actors and a long ranging story setup but if it is going to be a 20 min commercial with 8 min of show then ditch it. I know they need to make money and are trying a new method but cramming it down throats is irritating.
Bigmoco

Level 1 (1%)
Since: 21/Apr/13
Message Posted On Apr 21st, 2013, 1:13 pm

I would this a D+, just didn't feel any chemistry between any of the actors. Has anyone seen one of the other pilots entitled "Betas" that one deserves a solid B+ as it was far more funny than "Zombieland: The Series".

Anonymous

Message Posted On Apr 21st, 2013, 11:27 am
This pilot was atrocious. No chemistry, no decent introduction to three out of four main characters, horrible "College Humor" level effects and settings, it was bland. It was too watered down, and it shouldn't be considering they can even say "fuck" on this show- there seem to be no real programming constraints. I will agree the opening scene was funny; it had production value, and it had the only two quality actors in this production, who were summarily killed. Every scene after that looked like it was filmed in a backyard. Tallahassee is awful, no southern swagger, no machismo. For a show so cheap looking, I'd love to know where the money from all the product went. This review was far too kind, far too softball. This would be gone from network or cable TV faster than "Do no Harm". The zombie behavior wasn't consistent even with the movie it's based on. Zombies don't notice things and run from them. More corn than a Monsanto farm.
Anonymous

Message Posted On Apr 21st, 2013, 8:47 am
Somebody knows how to write scenes. But the only decent dialogue was the opening office worker talk. I'm surprised no one picked up on the Bruce Campbell resemblance, wasn't what they were going for?
matt4848

Level 1 (86%)
Since: 29/Feb/12
Message Posted On Apr 21st, 2013, 7:16 am

Dear Amazon Prime, don't call it a FREE 30 DAY TRIAL, when it requires a purchase of $10 dollars or more. False Advertising.

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