Welcome to Zombieland: Would you like some comedy with your apocalypse?

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Woody Harrelson (left) and Jesse Eisenberg (center) star in Columbia Pictures' ZOMBIELAND.

As is common in times of recession, society has disaster on its mind, and the world of cinema is no exception. Today, a rational moviegoer can only hope to be mauled to death by Benicio Del Toro's ""Wolfman"" before the world implodes on ""2012"" or, God forbid, some unobliging teenage vampire comes along to break our hearts.


""Zombieland,"" the newest in an endless chain of apocalypse flicks, posits the same human-free end times that man has been stressing about since biblical days, but is delivered with an irreverent comedic style that ultimately makes it more akin to ""Superbad"" than doom-and-gloom contemporaries like ""Dawn of The Dead"" or ""Resident Evil.""


At the core of ""Zombieland"" is Jesse Eisenberg (you know, the Michael Cera for people who are sick of Michael Cera), who reprises his role in ""Adventureland"" as the awkward virgin trying to get a break despite wacky circumstances. In this case, the circumstance is the zombie apocalypse, caused by some terribly infective disease derivative of mad cow (the specifics are never fully explained) that has consumed most of America's population by the time the film begins.


Eisenberg, known only as ""Columbus"" in the film, has managed to outlive his fellow Americans by obsessively adhering to a set of simple zombie survival rules influenced by a lifetime of being introverted and suspicious — but that introversion is soon tested by the comedic cadre of fellow survivors he encounters on the road home (imagine ""The Wizard of Oz,"" but with way more flesh-eating and execution).


Along for the ride is Woody Harrelson (in his most outlandish role since the hook-handed bowler in ""Kingpin"") as the hickish, gun-toting Twinkie-fanatic known as Tallahassee. Tallahassee is Terminator to Eisenberg's John Connor, but unlike Arnold, actually shows an intense exuberance when flinging lead between a zombie's eyes or taking out flesh-craving rednecks with a well-aimed banjo.


Playing the obligatory hot chick of the wastes is Emma Stone (of ""Superbad"" and ""The Rocker"") who, along with her kid sister (""Little Miss Sunshine's"" Abigail Breslin), makes a decent living for herself both pre- and post-apocalypse by conning horny men out of their possessions.


The film opens with a slow-mo montage of undead Americans turning on their countrymen, spewing blood across the camera, chomping on some sweet man flesh and consorting in other traditional zombie hobbies while a stereotypical Metallica tune blasts in the background. Despite the initial gruesomeness and gore, the prevailing tone of ""Zombieland"" is more of a slapstick and adolescent-romance hybrid, utilizing sensational bursts of violence only when it is funny, not for the purpose of whittling down the already slim number of speaking characters.


The obvious comparison is to ""Shaun of The Dead,"" the genre-bending British brainchild of Simon Pegg that also examined the lighter side of the undead Armageddon. The biggest differences in the decidedly Americanized ""Zombieland"" are the protagonist's prevailing quest for devirginization, and the utter lack of subtlety: the first three jokes of the film are a burp joke, a fat joke, and a bathroom gag, but the juvenile humor eventually subsides once the plot kicks in.


Despite a few distractions, like the unexplained origin of the zombie virus and the sporadic bouts of sophomoric comedy, ""Zombieland"" is a wholly amusing vision of the apocalypse that prospective zombie hunters and horny college students alike will not regret seeing. Remember: the end times only come once. Might as well enjoy them.


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