The cool factor of zombies has gotten so out of hand that we’ve ended up with something like Zombieland, a movie that uses the undead the way a similarly glib, flashy comedy might use cheerleading or football—as pure window dressing. Zombieland isn’t much of a zombie movie at all, instead functioning as a sort of cynical romantic comedy with occasional incursions of flesh-eating monsters. Now, Shaun of the Dead did a good job of integrating those two facets, but Zombieland takes everything Shaun did cleverly—the meta-movie references, the love amidst the apocalypse, the forging of a makeshift family to combat unspeakable horrors—and amps it up with distracting, empty visuals and lazy, repetitive jokes.
At least the central characters, four humans banding together against the zombie apocalypse, are generally likeable and occasionally funny, even if the movie forgets to give them a plot to inhabit. There’s only a vague destination in mind for the group on the run from the undead, and the movie’s second half basically abandons any pretense for caring about zombies, only to kick back into high gear for an overblown (and undermotivated) climax. Director Ruben Fleischer oversells the script’s cooler-than-thou humor, and the whole thing collapses from exhaustion before its brief running time is out.