Synopsis – Columbus, Tallahassee, Wichita, and Little Rock move to the American heartland as they face off against evolved zombies, fellow survivors, and the growing pains of the snarky makeshift family.
My Take – Yes, it has been 10 years since Zombieland, the sleeper hit horror-comedy, released. A guilty pleasure film which proved that sub-genre could be fun, serious, adventurous and at the same time, clever. And add to that a group of likable, wisecracking characters played by Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, and Abigail Breslin, the film managed to quickly become a fan favorite for its fresh spin.
While the four leads have since gone to become some of the busiest actors working today, having all been nominated for Academy Awards for their variety of roles, with Emma Stone picking her Oscar for her role in La La Land, the possibility of a sequel seemed dim as time passed.
However, despite the change in their status quo, the original cast is surprisingly back, along with the same core of writers and of course, the captain of the ship, director Ruben Fleischer, fresh off the success of Venom. While a decade may seem like a long time to maintain a setup, this sequel successfully manages to deliver just that. The characters are still consistent, the humor is still witty and self-aware, the action scenes are well shot, and the visual sensibility is maintained and doubled down on.
Is it perfect? Of course not! Instead of changing its approach to the material, the sequel wisely sticks to what made its predecessor a favorite, without ever feeling like a rehash. It’s more of a celebration of its own existence than anything terribly fresh, but the jokes are solid and I laughed a lot, which I can’t say for most studio comedies of late. In simpler terms, this is one of those sequels that feels like a logical extension of its predecessor, in the sense, if you liked the original film, you’ll enjoy this one, in case you didn’t, you won’t like this one too.
Set a decade after the events of the first film, the story still follows Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin), a makeshift family unit, and a tightly disciplined zombie-killing team, who have now moved into the abandoned White House in the post-apocalyptic zombie-filled world that Columbus has long referred to as Zombieland, in order to satisfy their strong desire for a permanent home.
Meanwhile the Zombies have evolved, too, splintering into different subspecies. There are the Homers, the slow-moving, dim-witted classic Romero zombies; the Hawkings, which are faster and smarter; and the Ninjas, who sneak up on their victims and attack suddenly. There are also rumors of a newer breed of Super Zombie, who are much more agile and significantly harder to kill.
While there are other human survivors out there, our ragtag band prefers to keep to themselves, with Little Rock, now nearly out of her teens, forming a truly daughterly relationship with the gruff Tallahassee, while Columbus and Wichita co-exist in a domestic bliss. But their isolationist strategy is starting to falter, as Little Rock has started to crave for an outside companionship with people her own age.
And once Columbus proposes, and Wichita gets spooked, the sisters once again abandon the two. However, a month later, when Little Rock falls for a hippie survivor named Berkeley (Avan Jogia) and runs off with him alone, Wichita goes back to the White House, only to find Columbus has hooked up on the rebound with a ditzy survivor named Madison (Zoey Deutch). But with the realization that Little Rock might be in danger, the four set off to find her.
Honestly, I didn’t realize that I’d missed these characters, but as soon as they reappeared on screen I suddenly realized why this film was necessary. Fortunately for fans of the first one, director Fleischer and company knew what they were doing when they brought us back to their crazy, blood-splattered world. As one would expect it packed with even more of the original film’s witty remarks, recognizable references, and self-aware gags.
The film doesn’t try to take a new approach at what made Zombieland such a fan favorite but instead gives us more of the same. That doesn’t mean it’s any less entertaining because instead of burying the fun of the original, it brings the zombie comedy back to life.
Like the first film, the appeal of this one is squarely centered on three things: lots of gory and well-choreographed zombie fight scenes, intelligent dialogue, and those idiosyncratic Meta moments when Columbus participates in world-building to his audience by explaining the rules of surviving Zombieland or identifies the different types of zombies that one might encounter.
Granted, the plot is a bit thin, the humor is a bit broad, the lesser characters are stereotypes, and things get wrapped up a bit too neatly in the end as our intrepid zombie slayers pair off. But that’s the genre for you. Above all, the film resists the temptation to take itself too seriously. For example, Tallahassee, Wichita, and Columbus have a good laugh in response to a suggestion from their new companion Madison, whom they all consider to be an airhead, about how she wants to start a service which sounds quite similar to what Uber offers.
The jokes and sight gags come hard and fast, and if a few fail to land, no matter, there are plenty of other laughs to be had. What’s touching about the sequel is also what’s exhausting about it: It has even more callbacks to its predecessor than it does to a much older, more substantial post-apocalyptic film franchise. For example, The new, harder-to-kill species of zombie the film introduces is referred to as a T-800, the model number of the cyborg tactical infiltrator Arnold Schwarzenegger played in The Terminator 35 years ago and shall again in that film’s upcoming sixth installment.
Another flaw with the script comes in the form of Babylon, a rumored pacifist commune where Berkeley, a pony tailed hiker, persuades the smitten Little Rock to accompany him, that has remained inexplicably untouched by the zombie uprising. However, the writers never supply any explanation for Babylon’s proof against the undead, hack or otherwise.
Yet, one of the original film’s greatest strengths were the cast members, who all shared great on-screen chemistry, and the past decade hasn’t diminished that one bit. It is a delight to watch Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, and Abigail Breslin settle back into their respective roles with ease, and they always bring some sense of warmth beneath the constant bickering and occasional eruptions of temper.
Among the supporting cast, Zoe Deutch practically steals the entire film as the perpetually pink-clad Madison, who somehow managed to survive on her own hiding out in a mall freezer for years, armed only with a can of mace. Rosario Dawson and Avan Jogia are also equally invested into their performances. In smaller roles, Luke Wilson and Thomas Middleditch, are hilarious, so is Bill Murray (in a brief mid-credit cameo). On the whole, ‘Zombieland: Double Tap’ is a fun sequel elevated by its smart humor, its compatible cast, and plenty of gory thrills.
Directed – Ruben Fleischer
Rated – R
Run Time – 99 minutes