Saturday, June 25, 2011

Love, Zombies, and Why Kelly is wrong.

During a moment of diversion in the Mutants and Masterminds game last night romantic comedies came up. My friend Kelly claimed that Shaun of the Dead was a romantic comedy. He is wrong. I will prove him wrong, then I will make his argument for him using Zombieland because Zombieland works much better as a romantic comedy then Shaun.

The differences between a comedy, a romantic comedy, and a movie with funny bits and a romatic twist is that in romantic comedies the romance is either front and center or at the very least it shares an equal amount of screen time with whatever else is going on. So for example Serendipity is a romantic comedy. It is a movie about two people who very much want to be together but are relying on fate to do so...okay fuck you I love that movie.

Meet Joe Black, more controversially is a romantic comedy. It is more of a dry comedy, and the romantic aspects share time with Joe Black learning what it is to be one of us, and his relationship with Anthony Hopkins. However, two plots are equivallent with one being introduced right after the other, and they are resolved roughly at the same time. This is a movie that really takes advantage of being three hours long as we get to see some real charecter devlopment in Mr. Black not just from his interactions with Mr. Hopkins but also through falling in love. It is a bitter sweet touching movie, and in its final moments when Joe Black asks for some peanut butter it never fails to break my heart.

Shuan of the Dead however is not a romantic comedy. If it were then Die Hard is a romantic comedy and that's just silly. Both Shaun of the Dead and Die Hard are genra movies first and foremost, a zombie movie and an action movie respectively. Focusing on Shaun which is the center of Kelly's argument, the idea behind Shaun is that it is a zombie movie that riffs off of the stereotypes and convenstions of the zombie genera. However, while making fun of the zombie genera it also stays well within its boundaries so much so that they end up besiged in a building, low on ammo, surrounded by zombies, and you get the iconic scene of a guy being pulled out a window and getting his intestines eaten while he is alive. The romantic aspect of Shaun of the dead served more as an excuse to develop the plot rather than to become a ceterpiece of the movie. Or to put it in the words of my favorite 8 year old zombie movie director, "To make you care and shit".

Zombieland by contrast is only barely a zombie movie. Just as the romantic aspect of Shaun of the Dead is an excuse to move the plot forwards, Zombieland uses the Zombies as an excuse to move the plot forwards. The difference is subtle but important. In Zombieland the zombies really don't make much of an appearance except for the start of the film and its ending. They are around just long enough to convince you that zombies abound, and to throw a motley crew of misfits together so that they can go on a road trip. However, after that the movie sort of brushes the zombies to one side so that we can have a road trip and bonding moments which is what the movie primarily is. I would say Zombieland is far more of a roadtrip movie than a romantic comedy, especially since the romance only just manages to blossom and not actually get fully underway but I found that to be one of the movie's few charms. The romance is also important because you have a comiclly wussy charecter who survives by not being a hero, playing the hero so that he can save the girl who he has grown attached to.

When comparing the two movies Zombieland comes off as far more light hearted. Again until the end no one is in any real danger and the zombie threat isn't nearly as persistent as it is in Shaun of the dead. Woody Harrleson's character acts as a sort of threat negator. He is proficient in all ways the main charecter isn't and as long as he is on the screen then there is an implicit contract that things will be okay, thus allowing the movie to relax, build forts, trash gift shops, and shoot off guns into the air. For everyone who watches real zombie movies these are all things that will result in a full party wipe. Shaun on the other hand lacks the reassurance of Woody Harrleson. We are instead left with Tim Baggaley who isn't really competent in everything and in fact leads many characters to their deaths as he sticks them all in a bar letting them get surrounded instead of doing something smarter. However, that is the humor of watching Shaun of the Dead, whereas the humor in Zombieland is more charecter based, especially as two of those charterers start to fall for one another.

So there.

1 comment:

i am Kelly said...

Shaun of the Dead in a nutshell:

1) Shaun is a bit of a loser who is often held back by a dead beat room mate. Shaun has a girlfriend and their relationship falls apart.

2) Shaun decides he has to do something to get his girlfriend back.

3) Meanwhile, ZOMBIES!!

4) Shaun decides that he is going to win his girlfriend back by showing he can be a strong male type of guy and escort her to a safe place.

5) Hilarious hijinks ensue as Shaun desperately attempts to impress the girl, leading to all of their friends being eaten by zombies due to Shaun's incompetence.

6) Despite all odds, Shaun and the girl end up getting together.

Eliminate the zombies, and you have the premise of countless romantic comedies. However, it is cleverly disguised as a very good zombie flick, making it worth watching.