Zombieland: Double Tap (2019)
Director: Ruben Fleisher
Cast: Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone
Synopsis: 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.
Genre: Action, Comedy, Horror
MPAA Rating: R (for bloody violence, language throughout, some drug and sexual content)
Runtime: 1 hr 39 min
Release Date: October 18, 2019
After a 10-year absence, the most famous zombie slayers to ever grace the screen are back. Zombieland: Double Tap, the long overdue sequel to 2009's genre-subverting zombie film Zombieland, follows our four beloved heroes Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) as they continue to navigate a post-apocalyptic United States in search of a permanent home.
The reason Zombieland was such a huge critical and commercial success back in 2009 was that it was unique--it essentially re-defined the zombie subgenre, making it its own. From its sharp wit and humor to its first person narrative style through Columbus to those ingeniously-crafted rules that were strikingly conveyed through some truly outstanding three-dimensional text graphics work. Add on the instantly memorable Bill Murray appearance, plenty of zombie action, and fleshed-out characters that deliver plenty of heart and emotional resonance and, well, you have a hit on your hands.
As always, the sequels are always the tricky part. But with director Ruben Fleisher and writers Rhett Rheese and Paul Wernick back for the second helping, one could not help but be excited for what lay in store. Zombieland: Double Tap does a few things right, but also several things wrong--ultimately creating one of those decent, but not great sequels.
We'll start with the wrong. Double Tap doesn't work near as well on a character level as what the first film did. The first showcased an isolated protagonist (Columbus) who didn't trust anybody and shied away from all human interaction, but who lacked something he didn't even know he needed--a family. He grew tremendously over the film because of this. One of his final lines "We had hope. We had each other. And without other people, you might as well be a zombie" was the perfect closing remark for someone who finally understood that deep human relationships--even in the midst of a zombie apocalypse--are the key to happiness. In Double Tap, he still believes that, but his character doesn't evolve nearly as much; instead, he's more focused on marrying Wichita. And while he still makes a realization by the film's end, it's not as poignant as the end of the first film. Other characters like Tallahassee follow along the same lines--they grow emotionally, but less time is given for these moments--this time they're glossed over in favor of more zombie action. It probably won't bother many fans (after all, not many come into a zombie film for the character development) but it's important to note that it takes a much larger back seat to the action this time around.
Another problem is that, although it still provides plenty of laughs, Double Tap isn't as sharp witted as the first film. Some of the best elements of the first film were Tallahassee's clash interactions with Columbus's nerd character trait as well as Wichita and Little Rock's trickster mentalities. Those elements of course can't be replicated here, even though new characters like Madison (Zoey Deutch) and Berkeley (Avan Jogia) are created to generate new interest. Though Berkeley is pretty much a throwaway character, Madison, a completely stereotypical blonde-girl airhead, becomes one of the film's most humorous bright spots, even though one can't possibly believe a nerd like Columbus would have the slightest interest in such a girl. Beyond those two, Albuquerque (Luke Wilson) and Flagstaff (Thomas Middleditch) offer one of the film's best scenes as two uncanny lookalikes to Tallahassee and Columbus, which you can only imagine might play out.
The good for Double Tap is that, smartly, the film raises the stakes and changes the game a bit, as Columbus explains that several breeds of zombies now exist, and a later discovery reveals that a new breed is a "super zombie"--a more durable form that doesn't go down even with multiple gun shots to the head. It all serves a double function of providing more danger and more room for blood in the zombie kills.
The film also is still a road trip movie, a formula that worked exceedingly well the first time around as we get to see different settings across the post-apocalyptic US. This time, the trip is a rescue mission, as Little Rock runs off with her new boyfriend Berkeley, without proper knowledge or weapons to defend herself against the super zombies. It all leads to another climactic showdown, one that is once again beautifully lit and directed--like the environment at Pacific Playland.
Zombieland: Double Tap, even in its attempt to add new characters, doesn't possess the same amount of sharp wit as the first film, and character development takes two back seats to larger-scale (and more visual effects heavy) zombie action. But the film still manages to deliver many laughs, and the fun you have with these characters is still undeniably pleasing. Just don't go in expecting it to reach the heights of the first film.
Written by Anthony Watkins, October 23, 2019