I’m not a big fan of the lazy question “Who asked for this sequel?” If the sequel in question is, you know, good, then I guess the answer to that question is “Me.”
Case in point: Zombieland: Double Tap marks the return of Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), Wichita (Emma Stone), and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) to the world of the walking dead. Ten years after the surprisingly spirited and charming Zombieland (before there was ever a “The Walking Dead” TV series), director Ruben Fleischer (Venom, 30 Minutes or Less) and writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick made the actors’ stars (and schedules) finally align to show us just how much this unlikely family is working in perfect harmony…or not.
Columbus’s list of rules still exists and is growing; he and Wichita are an actual couple now; and Tallahassee sees himself as a protective figure to Little Rock, who is old enough to start wishing she could meet a nice boy. And while this makeshift team has evolved somewhat, so have the zombies. There are dumb, slow zombies (Homers), faster and smarter ones (Hawkings), and a newer and much harder to kill variety (T-800) that is making everyone very nervous. The four move into the White House, thinking they have found the perfect new home since it’s fortified and easy to defend. But soon Columbus proposes to Wichita, freaking her out to the point where she and Little Rock leave in the night, looking for something less smothering.
Shortly thereafter, while on a supply run/search party, the men stumble upon a blonde airhead named Madison (Zoey Deutch), who has been hiding in a restaurant freezer in a nearby mall (she never thought to turn off the freezer and not be cold all the time, but who’s counting?). The dumb-blonde jokes don’t always land, but Deutch hints that there is something knowing going on behind those vacant eyes. She has her sites set on Columbus, and finally beds him right as Wichita returns, having lost track of Little Rock when she indeed met a hippie musician type named Berkeley (Avan Jogia), and they ran off together to a magical safe place known as Babylon.
And with that set-up, the White House crew leaves their safe surroundings to look for Little Rock. Since Little Rock is in current possession of Tallahassee’s ride, the team must ride to the rescue in a mini-van. First they stop at Graceland (both Tallahassee and Little Rock have wanted to go there for years), which is partially destroyed. Then they find a rather complete Elvis museum run by Nevada (Rosario Dawson), who takes an instant liking to Tallahassee. Before long, other survivors show up in the form of Albuquerque (Luke Wilson) and Flagstaff (Thomas Middleditch), whose personalities and dynamic seem to closely resemble that of Tallahassee and Columbus—a joke that gets about five minutes to play out when a swarm of T-800s attack and Albuquerque and Flagstaff decide to take them on alone.
While a great deal Double Tap may feel familiar, director Fleischer has improved as a director of action sequences since the original. A rip-roaring partial demolition of the Elvis museum (seemingly in a single take) during a series of hand-to-hand combat moments is pretty great, as is the final showdown between a tribe of hippies and an army of T-800s. The film has a fairly relentless pace in terms of both the action and the laughs, with each character bringing something unique to the comedy table (except for maybe Breslin, who has to wait until the end of the movie to get anything resembling “a moment”). I’ll admit, it’s strange seeing Stone back in this environment after having a recent string of Oscar-caliber performances (one of which actually won her one), but it’s also great seeing her reunite with this group of misfits and bring something extra to the proceedings. Her reactions to newcomer Madison are pretty priceless.
The bottom line is I laughed a lot during Double Tap. A look at life during the apocalypse was never really the point of Zombieland, and it’s even less so with its sequel. The point was always the relationships among the main four characters and how they responded to any new presence (living or dead) that attempted to infiltrate. On that level, the movie is a success. Of the new characters, Dawson adds the most, being a worthy counterpoint to Harrelson bravado, which feels a little dated 10 years later and frankly needs some updating. Although it is fun to watch him take down woke culture.
And for those of you looking for any fun cameos tucked into this film, make sure you stay through the end credits for some ridiculously silly nonsense. Sometimes sequels don’t give us new and improved; more often, they are about being cinematic comfort food, and this one was largely satisfying.
Did you enjoy this post? Please consider supporting Third Coast Review’s arts and culture coverage by becoming a patron. Choose the amount that works best for you, and know how much we appreciate your support!