Posted Thursday, Oct. 1, 2009, at 6:32 PM
In my review of Zombieland , I alluded to the movie's fantastically enjoyable, out-of-nowhere cameo appearance. Not wanting to ruin the surprise for people planning to see the movie, I left out the juicy details. But considering that the secret is all over the Web, it seems a shame to leave the beans unspilled. Herewith, a Zombieland spoiler.
SPOILER WARNING: Don't read any of the text below if you want to stay in the dark about what happens in Zombieland !
OK, here we go: Halfway through the movie, our heroes arrive in Los Angeles. While searching for a luxurious place to stay in post-apocalyptic L.A., they scan a map of the stars' homes and set off for a mansion with "BM" engraved on the gates. Once inside, they discover memorabilia belonging to one of the great comic actors of modern times ... Bill Murray.
As the crew prepares to stay the night, presuming that Murray is long gone, the comedian appears in undead form. But it turns out he's not a flesh eater after all — he's just wearing zombie makeup to blend in with his surroundings while he plays golf. Woody Harrelson's character, Tallahassee, on discovering that his hero is still alive, unspools a great monologue about his reverence for Murray's work — even the dramas. (There's no mention of the movie Harrelson and and Murray starred in together, Kingpin .) Tallahassee and Wichita (Emma Stone) then join Murray to re-enact a scene from Ghostbusters with vacuum cleaners standing in for proton packs.
Murray's appearance shines in all four categories of the Cameo Matrix: star power, surprise factor, absurdity, and internal funniness. There are moments within the Murray sequence that are a bit slack, but the scene ultimately scores extra points by going on and on and on, delivering punch lines and surprises after the initial novelty and strangeness have worn off. The kicker comes when Tallahassee and Wichita and Bill decide to put a scare into Jesse Eisenberg's Columbus, who is oblivious to the fact that Murray is alive. Columbus — who's secreted away in Murray's home theater watching Ghostbusters (the real version, not the one with vacuum cleaners) — gets surprised by the zombified-via-makeup Murray and shoots him in the chest. Murray milks the death scene, making funny breathing noises as he's about to expire. Wichita starts laughing at his performance before catching herself. "Also, it's really sad," she adds.