Critics Consensus: Zombieland Is Bloody Good
Plus, Whip It, The Invention of Lying, Capitalism, and the Toy Stories (mostly) hit their marks.
This week at the movies, we've got zombie zaniness (Zombieland, starring Woody Harrelson and Jesse Eisenberg); derby dolls (Whip It, starring Drew Barrymore and Ellen Page); funny falsehoods (The Invention of Lying, starring Ricky Gervais and Jennifer Garner); financial follies (Michael Moore's Capitalism: A Love Story); and a pair of Pixar classics (Toy Story and Toy Story 2, both in 3-D). What do the critics have to say?
For those who think there's nothing left on the carcass of the zombie subgenre to pick over, guess again. Critics say Zombieland is a hilarious send-up of films about the undead -- with enough blood and guts to satisfy the gorehound set. Woody Harrelson and Jesse Eisenberg star as a pair of non-zombies who team up for a road trip across an American landscape that's overrun with walking corpses. It's a simple enough setup, but pundits say what makes Zombieland such a good time at the movies is its boundless energy and inventiveness -- and the fact that it features one of the funniest celebrity cameos in quite some time.
With Whip It, Drew Barrymore makes her directorial debut with a girl-empowerment sports comedy. And the critics say this roller derby flick is sweet and sparky, with a breezy, unsentimental tone that compensates for the predictable script. Ellen Page stars as a beauty pageant regular who decides to try her hand in the rough-and-tumble world of roller derby -- and break out of her small-town routine in the process. The pundits say Whip It is loaded with sports movie clichés, but so what? Featuring a veritable army of top-notch actresses (including Kristen Wiig, Eve, Juliette Lewis, Marcia Gay Harden and Barrymore herself), the film is both fleet-footed and good-natured.
Calling Ricky Gervais' brand of comedy self-deprecating doesn't go far enough -- self-immolating is more like it. And though Gervais is undeniably talented, the pundits say his latest, The Invention of Lying (which he co-scripted and co-directed with Matthew Robinson) is ambitious but uneven. The film takes place in a parallel world in which everyone tells the whole truth and nothing but all the time, until Mark (Gervais) discovers that bearing false witness will get him ahead in the world -- for a while, anyway. The critics say this is thought-provoking, inventive stuff, but despite some big laughs, The Invention of Lying eventually jettisons its originality for romantic comedy convention.
A few documentaries have tried to grapple with the events that lead to the current economic crisis. Michael Moore goes a step further, indicting our economic system itself with Capitalism: A Love Story, and the pundits say the result is his most personal (if not his best) since Roger & Me. As usual, Moore blends stock footage, interviews, and gonzo stunts, taking aim at the system that spawned our recent financial collapse. As with many of Moore's films, some critics feel his research is thin, and that his biases overwhelm the facts, but most say his brand of cinematic rabblerousing is in fine form, with affecting tales of fiscal woe and a few big laughs. (Check out our interview with Moore here.)
Toy Story and Toy Story 2
This week, two of Pixar's crowning achievements -- Toy Story and Toy Story 2 -- get rereleased in glorious 3-D. Let us put it to you in the simplest terms possible: these are two of the best-reviewed films in the history of this site. If you've never seen them before, now's your chance to experience the magic on the big screen -- while wearing 3-D glasses, no less.
Also opening this week in limited release:
- Abel Ferrara's Chelsea on the Rocks, a documentary about New York's legendary boho residence, the Chelsea Hotel, is at 91 percent.
- The Coen Brothers' A Serious Man, which follows a Jewish college professor and family man who's struggling to find the meaning of life, is at 81 percent.
- Afterschool, a dark drama about a youngster whose fascination with internet videos pulls him in sinister directions, is at 73 percent.
- More Than a Game, a doc about NBA superstar LeBron James and his high school teammates, is at 62 percent.
Finally, props to RunAmok for coming the closest to guessing Pandorum's 34 percent Tomatometer.