Film Review – Zombieland: Double Tap
Zombieland: Double Tap
One of the big draws of Zombieland (2009) was the chemistry of the main cast. Zombie-apocalypse survivors Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), Wichita (Emma Stone), and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) made for an entertaining dysfunctional family. Seeing them interact and play off one another was just as entertaining as watching them take down a horde of rotting flesh eaters. It’s that dynamic that makes the sequel Zombieland: Double Tap (2019) worth a visit, even if the zombie genre has run out of fashion.
The entire crew is back, including director Ruben Fleischer and co-writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (with Dave Callaham joining in). If you enjoyed the first film, then chances are you are going to like a lot of what’s going on here. Just as before, we get the same kind of self-aware horror comedy, fueled by a rocking soundtrack, with Columbus guiding our way through narration. We get reintroduced to his many rules of zombie survival – which includes having good cardio, always asking for help, avoiding public bathrooms, etc. – along with his insights to the characters and their various storylines. With any sequel, the initial feeling of revelation is gone, but the cast and crew bring plenty of fun to keep us engaged.
The dysfunctional family theme is at the forefront. Ten years have passed since we’ve Columbus, Tallahassee, Madison, and Little Rock, and now they are well experienced in warding off the zombie plague. We find them hunkered down at the White House, doing whatever they can to pass the time. But just like any family, members start getting stir crazy, wanting to do things on their own. Little Rock was once a kid but has grown into a full adult. She desires to go out and meet people her own age and maybe find romance. The honeymoon phase between Columbus and Wichita has ended, and now each have found the little eccentricities and quirks that get on each other’s nerves. And then there’s Tallahassee, who gets caught between venturing out on his own and being a surrogate father to Little Rock.
The plot is the least interesting thing about Double Tap. When Little Rock runs off with a free loving hippie named Berkeley (Avan Jogia), the family decides to follow her to ensure her safety. On paper, the story doesn’t have much to hang on. We mostly find the group traveling on the road, getting into episodes where they meet other characters or shoot down a group of zombies. But it’s the back and forth between them that keeps things going. Columbus and Wichita’s love/hate relationship is fueled by passive aggressive side remarks that are more funny than cruel. Tallahassee’s little obsessions (like driving a vehicle other than a mini-van or visiting Elvis’ home in Graceland) are character traits that aren’t overly developed but at least gives him enough dimension to stand out.
The biggest addition to the cast is Madison (Zoey Deutch) a blonde-haired, ditzy girl that the group picks up in D.C. Deutch has a difficult role to play – it would be very easy to make Madison a stereotypical “dumb blonde” character. And while she toes that line, Deutch’s comedic delivery and timing prevents Madison from being too grating. In fact, she may be the highlight of the film. None of the characters know how someone like her could survive for so long, but we kind of accept it in the same way we can accept a world taken over by mindless zombies. If they can survive, so can she.
One of the reasons why Zombieland took so long to get a sequel was because Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick went off to write and produce the Deadpool films. Deadpool and Zombieland share similar characteristics in terms of the tongue-in-cheek comedy. Both have characters that address the audience directly, and both poke fun at themselves. With Double Tap, we see plenty of instances of this, including the scene where Tallahassee and Columbus run into their doppelgangers, Albuquerque (Luke Wilson) and Flagstaff (Thomas Middleditch). The funniest sequence has the nebbish Columbus and Flagstaff comparing each other’s rules/commandments for survival, with Fleischer injecting each one on the screen in text.
There is a bit about an evolved sub-species of zombie, nicknamed T-800s, for their ability to take a gunshot blast but still keep moving, but that doesn’t really play into the narrative with any kind of significance. There’s also the inclusion of Rosario Dawson as Nevada, a potential love interest for Tallahassee, but just like the T-800s, her contributions are rather limited. But even with these shortcomings, Zombieland: Double Tap has just enough good stuff to make this an enjoyable Halloween-season experience. The franchise may not have the same kind of passionate following compared to say, Shaun of the Dead (2004), but when you have charismatic performers having this much fun working together, it’s hard to ignore. I wouldn’t mind seeing a third installment, but let’s not wait another ten years for it, ok?