Zombieland: Double Tap
The original 2009 Zombieland is one of those movies that you don’t typically hear about, and when you finally see it, you can’t help but not get enough it. To be fair, who could blame you? It was a sleeper hit that managed to balanced enough R-rated humor, zombie-killing hijinks, and dynamic character interactions to make for a wholesomely enriching experience. Even 10 years after its initial release, the movie still manages to bring plenty of laughs and gore to delight audiences.
Zombieland: Double Tap is very much in the same vain as its predecessor, in that it never treads into new territory nor completely divert from the original formula. If anything, it relishes in its original premise. But while that wouldn’t be a positive for the majority of sequels, it somehow manages to be a strength for this film. Rather than try something bold or new with its setting and context, Zombieland: Double Tap is a run down memory lane as we’re reunited with this rag tag family of zombie killers and Twinkie lovers and reminded why we fell in love with them in the first place. It stays simple and safe with its premise, but manages to squeeze out enough laughs, kills, and sincerity to make for a worthwhile road trip through a zombie-infested United States.
10 years after the events of Zombieland, our rough-and-tough, zombie-hunting family, consisting of Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), Wichita (Emma Stone), and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin), have made a home out of what remains of the White House, effectively becoming a family in the process. Things begin to take a nose-dive, however, when tensions start to rise between them. Columbus proposes to Wichita whilst Tallahassee becomes an overprotective father to Little Rock. The ever-mounting stress results in the girls having to abandon their new family.
Things get ever more complicated after Little Rock leaves Wichita for a pacifist, guitar-playing survivor named Berkeley (Avan Jogia). Evidently, Wichita must return to Columbus and Tallahassee in order to go out in search of Little Rock, but not before meeting Columbus’ new, albeit air-headed and naïve, romantic flame in Madison (Zoey Deutch). Together, they must once again traverse the apocalyptic wasteland of America in search of Little Rock, all the while tearing through hordes of zombies along the way, some of which have become a little harder to kill than before.
Nothing much comes out of this movie in terms of adding more substance to the franchise. It relies solely on the fact that it’s an insane road trip extravaganza and for the most part it benefits greatly from it. It’s less of a new chapter in the “saga” of Zombieland and more of the filmmakers trying to conjure up new ways and scenarios and circumstances to get a positive and hilarious experience out of a cataclysmic zombie apocalypse.
Like in the previous film, a lot of the running gags come from Tallahassee and his frenzied search for satisfaction of some kind. In the last movie, his search for the ever-lasting Twinkie and his love for Bill Murray were just a taste of the humor the movie offered. This time around, the gags come in all shapes and sizes, and we enjoy every minute of it. Tallahassee’s strong distaste for the hippie community as well as his lovestruck search for Graceland makes for plenty of gut-busting hilarity, and Woody Harrelson once again makes all of it seamless and delightfully cynical.
Come to think of it, it’s pleasant to see that all the actors still fit snuggly in their characters. It’s been 10 years and none of them have lost any of the charm, wit, and energy from their last outing. That is crucial because the chemistry and dynamics between the actors are what make Zombieland, and inevitably Zombieland: Double Tap, as fun and hysterical as they are. This time around, we get a new batch of characters added into the mix, including a duo of doppelgangers of Tallahassee and Columbus, who add a healthy dose of levity and spark to the formula.
But the stand out addition is hands down Zoey Deutch as the dim-witted and gullible Madison. She’s very much embracing the tired trope of the “dumb blonde,” but she embraces it with pure, unadulterated commitment. While she can go overboard in her cluelessness and naivete at times, she’s most often a pleasant little treat to watch on screen as she becomes more of a nuisance to the hardened, veteran-esque survivalists we love.
Where her placement in the story flounders is when she becomes the central source of conflict between Columbus and Wichita. I’m generally not a big fan of love triangles. I’m not saying there haven’t been effective triangles in other media. There absolutely have been ones that are meaningful and fulfilling. But I most often see them as a cheap excuse to create tension between the lead romantic interests, and it’s no different here. There are plenty of other decisions made by Columbus and Wichita, especially given there polar opposite personalities, that can lead to a rift between them. I felt the love story with Madison’s was not only unnecessary, but it also sometimes felt like it would get in the way of the other characters and their development, such as Tallahassee and Little Rock.
Zombieland: Double Tap is a gleefully fulfilling and pleasant adventure that isn’t weighed down by the rules of evolution. It doesn’t grow from what it once was in 2009 and, to be honest, it didn’t need to. Would it have been better to see our characters grow as people and see a different take on the franchise? Sure! It good to take risks. But in this case, playing it safe wasn’t that bad of an idea. The characters remain as fruitful and cynical as they did ten years ago and there are still plenty of guts, laughs, and hijinks left in the bucket. It doesn’t try to be anything else than a simple zom-com with likable characters and gratifying set pieces, and there’s nothing wrong with that.