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  • Directed by Ruben Fleischer
  • Written by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick
  • Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone
  • Classification: 14A

If it's Friday, this must be Zombieland . Yep, the place has become to the movie world what Venice is to the Mediterranean cruise - no package tour would be complete without a quick stop in the undead zone. Very quick in this happy case. At a brisk 80 minutes, the flick isn't a minute too short. Better yet, for those with a sweet fang for confections, it's far more charming than chilling and way more funny than frightening. Altogether, considering this trip has been done to death, even the most seasoned traveller can mail home a relatively upbeat postcard: On the whole, wish you were here.

And don't worry about the zombies in Zombieland . They're just background filler, comic extras and cannon fodder, really just the Muzak of monsters. Instead, this is a road movie, although the roads are strewn with abandoned cars and trashed gas stations and the general lay of the land is decidedly post-apocalyptic. You know the look - the sedge is withered by the lake, and no cellphones ring. Why? Silly, 'cause the toothy ones have infected virtually the entire U.S. populace, leaving only a handful of healthy survivors with valid driver's licences and, apparently, a fondness for using their hometowns as proper names.

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So meet Columbus who, played by the curly mopped Jesse Eisenberg, must be the token nerd and 'fraidy cat. Or, as he puts it: "I avoided people like they were zombies even before they were zombies." In this vicious climate, he's learned to back up his sensitivity with a double-barrelled shotgun and a long list of avoidance techniques, firm survival rules that can't be broken. Like Rule No. 1: "Cardio, cardio, cardio." Seems the obesity crisis has finally caught up to America's ample contingent of chubbies - unable to outrun their attackers, they were the first to get bitten.

Since all road movies demand a buddy, timid Columbus soon crosses paths with terrible Tallahassee, and the odd couple is complete. A manly man, Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) is the Rambo of zombie-killers, the cannon to their fodder. Automatic rifles are his weapons of choice but, in a pinch, toilet seats or garden shears appear to do the job just fine. But that's not the script's principal vocation. Mainly, it's in the banter business. An example. Setup: "Are you someone who loves to one-up everyone's story?" Punchline: "No, I know a guy way worse at that than me." See, business ain't bad at all.

Did I mention the femmes? That's Little Rock (little Abigail Breslin) and her big sister Wichita (Emma Stone), who starts off as a bad girl but, not too far down the road, makes a nice detour straight to the heart of downtown Columbus. Naturally, like all pioneers, their path leads westward, with a stop in Hollywood for a surprise cameo appearance from a pretty big-name actor. Can't say who. Can say his name won't be tarnished by his funny labours here.

Trailing corpses and comedy, the foursome - with an assist from director Ruben Fleischer - bounces breezily along, always intent on their main quest: They're keen to find a "zombie-free zone." Hell, these days, so are the rest of us. In the interim, though, perhaps we're all well advised to follow Columbus's Rule No. 32: "Enjoy the little things." Modestly clever, this is definitely a little thing. Enjoy.

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About the Author
Film critic

Rick Groen is a film critic for The Globe and Mail. More

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