Arriving ten years after the breakout zom-com hit, Zombieland: Double Tap offers many of the same aspects that made its predecessor work as well as it did. The chemistry of the talented cast is still intact, the humor is as snarky and self-referential as ever, and the violence towards the undead is at least as gory as one would expect.
It’s disappointing, then, that the film still can’t help but feel like afterthought among the legions of zombie-related media that we’ve been saturated with throughout the past decade.
Fittingly, this is addressed in the opening voiceover, in which we’re told “you have a lot of choices when it comes to zombie entertainment, so thank you for picking us.” While I appreciate the sentiment, I’d rather just have fewer choices.
We pick back up with survivors Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), Wichita (Emma Stone), and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) as they take up residence at the now-abandoned White House.
Their relatively idyllic family atmosphere dissipates when Wichita and Little Rock decide to hit the road, for fear of growing too emotionally attached. After a month, Wichita makes her way back but loses Little Rock to a hippie named Berkeley (Avan Jogia) along the way. Together with Madison (Zoey Deutch), Columbus’ new girlfriend that he made during Wichita’s absence, the group sets out to bring Little Rock back into the fold amid a world with increasingly resilient zombies.
A common charge rallied against sequels that are far removed in time from their predecessors is that the cast can look bored or tired on-screen, potentially due to contractual obligation.
Say what you will about Zombieland: Double Tap, but the performers do seem genuinely excited to be back in this universe. Even though their enthusiasm doesn’t quite save the tired material at the film’s core, it’s at least admirable that a primary cast including three Oscar nominees and an Oscar winner don’t feel like they are phoning it in.
Despite working from paper-thin characters, newcomers like Luke Wilson and Rosario Dawson add some comedic sparks on the periphery.
By and large, the film follows the well-worn sequel tradition of taking what worked in the original and amplifying it up to 11. This means that we get three different variations on Tallahassee’s signature line where just one callback to it would have likely sufficed. Where Eisenberg would chime in sparingly to remind us of the Rules in Zombieland, this time around his cheeky voiceover track seems to tower over most of the dialogue from other characters. The most clever bit in the film, where Columbus and Tallahassee run into alternate reality versions of themselves, was not only spoiled in the trailers but massively overstays its welcome in long form.
Still, the movie does have some well-earned laughs here and there. There’s a pre-credit bit that I found clever and unexpected and the post-credit scene will delight those who were holding their breath for a callback cameo by a particular comedic icon. It’s everything in the middle that’s quite hit-or-miss, especially since the jokes are attached to a storyline that is transparent and completely surprise-free.
As far as belated sequels go, you could certainly do much worse than Zombieland: Double Tap, but that still doesn’t mean that it does enough on its own to justify its existence.
Coming to theaters this weekend
Countdown, starring Elizabeth Lail and Peter Facinelli, is a new horror film about a young nurse who downloads an app that claims to predict exactly when a person is going to die.
Black and Blue, starring Naomie Harris and Tyrese Gibson, tells the story of a rookie police officer who captures the murder of a drug dealer on her body cam, only to find out that it was committed by fellow policemen.
The Lighthouse, starring Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson, follows two lighthouse keepers as they are faced with loneliness, friendship, and their worst fears in 1890s New England.