Zombieland: Double Tap, 2019.
Directed by Ruben Fleischer.
Starring Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin, Rosario Dawson, Zoey Deutch, Avan Jogia, Thomas Middleditch, Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Luke Wilson, Al Roker, and Grace Randolph.
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.
From the get-go, Columbus’ narration (a returning Jesse Eisenberg, once again dictating his meticulous rules of survival and spelling out obvious themes) is self-aware that zombie content is overcrowded and that Zombieland: Double Tap more or less only exists due to fan demand (also nostalgia even if the first chapter is only 10 years old). He is appreciative that audiences have chosen this nutty gang of zombie apocalypse survivalists to hang out with when the alternatives are plentiful and spread across all genres. It’s also not really a surprise that director Ruben Fleischer (if there is one good thing to come from the inexplicable box office success of the disaster that is Venom, it might be him presumably getting more confidence from Sony and the support to satiate fans with this sequel) and irreverent Deadpool writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick had the itch to give us this double-tap; the characters are just too damn fun to be around, all containing lightning chemistry with one another.
Still forgoing their real names to be easily identified as cities, Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), Wichita (Emma Stone), and Little Rock (now a young adult and still played by Abigail Breslin) are now a well-oiled zombie slaughtering team, as evident by an opening credits sequence set to Metallica, which is the first worrisome moment that Zombieland: Double Tap will repeat the same jokes, ideas, musical cues, and emotional beats like so many other phoned in past-the-expiration-date follow-ups. Fortunately, while there are quite a few callbacks and references to the first film (including an extended sequence elaborating on the incredible cameo from 10 years ago that, funny as it may be, feels as if the filmmakers are trying too hard to one-up themselves), much of the humor is smartly an extension on what worked prior.
Zombies have evolved, meaning that while our familiar group is more than capable to deal with most attacks, there are still challenging battles. Amusingly, the dumbest of zombie brands are designated as Homers (yes, as in Homer Simpson) whereas the elites (indestructible, smarter, stronger, and more agile) are referred to as T-800s, or basically Terminators. Now, I must confess that Terminator shout outs are one way to get me on board with, really, any movie, but objectively the labels are indeed hilarious and clever. Zombie Kill of the Week has been upgraded to Zombie Kill of the Year, flashy kills are emphasized just as much as staying alive, and the finale bears some resemblance to the climax of its predecessor. Zombieland: Double Tap certainly isn’t innovating, but it is serving up satisfaction in ways that understand why the original found such a sizable following.
As for the protagonists, they have taken up shelter inside none other than the White House (naturally, the location makes for some funny bits). Nevertheless, the safe haven is proving to offer too much isolation, especially with Columbus overbearing Wichita about getting married and Tallahassee smothering a Little Rock that is no longer little with fatherly affection. It’s not all rousing lowbrow humor either, as Zombieland: Double Tap does have a few messages on its mind; overly attached emotions from men that end up pushing women away, a surface-level exploration of if certain characters are meant to be with one another or if the zombie apocalypse circumstances are pushing them in that direction, and the world still containing like-minded and relatable individuals to meet even if the potential for human socializing is scarce. There is also a sidesplitting segment where the makeshift family makes the acquaintance of individuals that are… too similar. However, that terrific silliness is best left seen firsthand.
Expanding on the new characters, all of them are, surprisingly, fine. Zoey Deutch portrays a stereotypical stupid blonde girl, and while some of the attempts at comedy are dated and lazy, the filmmakers do get creative with showing how someone that brain-dead could survive in this environment. Initially, her character also does a worthwhile job of feeding into the aforementioned relationship observations. Unfortunately, the script makes a dreadfully predictable decision with her, almost as if they had no idea what else to do with her for a while. It’s poor writing and will be shocking if even amateur moviegoers don’t pick up on a key misdirection.
Zombieland: Double Tap also doesn’t really know what to do with these tossed around concepts intended to further define its characters and cause them to grow. It builds to some unearned emotional resolutions (Little Rock really gets shafted here, which is disappointing considering she is the entire reason the routine life is upended), but the zombie action absolutely sticks the landing. It’s familiar and not as thoughtful as the narrative is occasionally trying to be, although the ensemble is charming enough at providing laughs and excitement to carry this sequel into winning territory. There is most definitely a minimum of two set-pieces (one of them impressively crafted as a lengthy tracking shot) that are a riot to behold. It’s no Zombie Movie of the Year (that honor belongs to Little Monsters), but it’s still a blast.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, friend me on Facebook, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, check out my personal non-Flickering Myth affiliated Patreon, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com