Ungrateful Dead

Zombieland is so entertaining it's hard to care about the huge plot holes, while Fame is a useless, pointless wreck

by Tim Plant
Published on October 1, 2009, 12:00am | Comments

I'm gonna live forever. Baby remember my name....

In a cutthroat world where luck is just as important as skill, only a few survive. And when every day is a struggle, the hope of finding some happiness along the way just seems unobtainable. Yet it's this one simple, common goal -- wanting to make it in a world that's harsh and unforgiving -- that unites a group of strangers. No, they're not a bunch high school kids at a performing arts school. They're the sole survivors of the human race when everyone else is either dead or the living dead.

Zombieland
Zombieland

Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) thinks he's alone in the world after an infected gas-station hamburger sets off a chain reaction resulting in zombies taking over the world. Only a shotgun and a long list of rules – plus irritable bowel syndrome – is keeping him alive. So when Columbus meets up with odd duck Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), he decides that a crazy companion is better than no companion at all. Each is called by his destination city – because learning someone's name just makes losing them to a zombie more painful – but really they're aimless.

The semblance of a plot forms when the guys run into the girls, Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) and Wichita (Emma Stone), and the foursome deal with trust issues, hope, and romance. But really, the plot is frivolous and doesn't deserve to be overly explained (mainly because that would be impossible).

Some great lines, some truly graphic violence, and a couple running jokes (literally) keep things moving faster than Jon away from Kate. Eisenberg only lapses into his Michael Cera impersonation for a few brief moments, otherwise doing a great job with the post-apocalyptic coming-of-age story. Harrelson does crazy so well that you wonder if it's an act. (This is the man who attacked a photographer in an airport and defended his actions by saying he mistook the guy for a zombie.) Stone and Breslin are both fine, but really are pretty much relegated to sidekick roles.

Another cameo is so wonderful that to share it would be robbing you of the enjoyment. So fight temptation and don't look it up.

ZOMBIELAND
starstarstarstar
Rated R
83 Minutes
Opens Friday,
Oct. 2
Area Theaters

Zombieland is just so downright entertaining that it's hard to care about the huge plot holes. And that's the charm of the movie -- director Ruben Fleischer made the whole thing so silly that it's pointless to do anything other than laugh.

It's true what they say: Fame is fleeting. And the new cast of Fame barely gets 15 seconds, let alone 15 minutes, and they hardly justify a thought once the theater threshold has been crossed. Much of that fault rests with director Kevin Tancharoen, who hasn't remade Fame as much as he's re-imagined it. In the process, he's redacted everything edgy about Alan Parker's 1980 original. The new Fame is both ridiculous and redundant.

By the end of the long introduction of kids audition for a coveted spot at the Performing Arts High School, every casting quota has been filled: the female African-American singer, the twerpy white film director, the Asian actress, the uptight white girl, the troubled African-American guy, and so on. It's actually quite handy that the cast represents a broad spectrum of races and performance genres because it's the only way to remember who anyone is.

This apathy towards the characters really comes down to simple math. If you take the number of leading roles (10), divide it into the length of the film (107 minutes), and then divide that by the number of grades the film covers (4), you're seeing less than three minutes dedicated to any one student in a year. By the time you've remembered who they are, another school year has passed already.

FAME
star
Rated PG
107 Minutes
Area Theatres

But maybe that's not the point of Fame. Maybe the film is all about the grand musical numbers and big dance scenes and catchy tunes. If that's the case, then the film merits a slightly higher grade. (D+ instead of D?) But the reason the music doesn't skew the curve more is the disjointed manner in which Tancharoen approaches each number. Some are spontaneous outbursts, some rehearsals with voice-overs, and others performances, but he does a grand jeté over the shark the minute he relies on the slow-motion jump sequence. At that point, he might as well just throw in the towel.

If one were forced to name a student of note on a pop quiz, the right answer would be Denise (Naturi Naughton), whose performance of "Out Here On My Own" is quite stirring. Otherwise, only the teachers played by actors prepossessing fame (Kelsey Grammer, Bebe Neuwirth, Megan Mullally, Charles S. Dutton) make an impression. Not that screenwriter Allison Burnett gives them much. They're trotted out to say profound things about art and stardom before being whisked off back to the wings.

You're better off skipping Fame and re-watching an episode of Glee instead.