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Face-Off: Zombieland vs. Zombieland: Double Tap

Director Ruben Fleischer's 2009 zombie comedy ZOMBIELAND left a lot of fans hoping for a sequel. It took a while, and there was an unsuccessful attempt to turn the Zombieland concept into a TV series with a different cast along the way, but that sequel, which Fleischer returned to direct and all the film's stars came back for, finally reached theatres last year. ZOMBIELAND: DOUBLE TAP is now available on digital (see it on Amazon Prime) and will be reaching DVD and Blu-ray on January 21st (you can pre-order a copy HERE), so we decided to celebrate the sequel's release by putting the two ZOMBIELANDs up against each other in a Face-Off.

STORY

Two months into a zombie apocalypse caused by a contaminated gas station burger, a young man from Columbus, Ohio is making his way back home from Texas (where he was attending college) when he crosses paths with a Twinkie-loving zombie killer from Tallahassee and a pair of sisters who call themselves Wichita and Little Rock. The girls take Columbus off course to Pacific Playland, an amusement park in the Los Angeles area that is rumored to be completely zombie-free. They go back and forth on trusting each other, they meet Bill Murray, and they discover that Pacific Playland isn't the perfect hideaway it was said to be. The story is very simple, but it's a really fun ride.

Columbus, Tallahassee, Wichita, and Little Rock have been together for ten years, but now that Little Rock has grown up from a tween to a young woman she's hoping to get more out of life beyond hanging out with the same three people and killing zombies. When she runs off with a hippie, her family - blood and otherwise - has to track her down to a pacifist community called Babylon. Along the way Columbus and Wichita deal with relationship issues, they meet other survivors, and they discover the existence of mutated zombies that are harder to kill. There's a bit more going on and more characters, but at its core the sequel is still a simple road trip story, and it's still a lot of fun.

THE CORE FOUR

It's not often that I call things a hoot, but that's the word I would use to describe Woody Harrelson's performance as wild redneck Tallahassee, who buries his tragic back story by focusing on having fun killing zombies. Harrelson makes the film, but the character guiding us through is Columbus - and honestly, Jesse Eisenberg comes off as a little creepy as this rule-following former shut-in who starts thinking of marriage as soon as he sees a girl and desperately wants to brush a girl's hair back over her ear. It takes a minute to warm up to Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin's Wichita and Little Rock because they're troublesome throughout - tricking the guys, pulling guns on them, running off and stealing their vehicles. They have their moments, though. Wichita is at her best when she's fangirling over Bill Murray.

Ten years have passed, but Columbus, Tallahassee, Wichita, and Little Rock are all as we remembered them - just a little older. Little Rock was a pain in the first movie and continues to be a pain, setting the story in motion with her desire to "leave the nest" and meet other people. Columbus and Wichita have been in a relationship since the end of the first film, but they're hitting a rough patch now. And Tallahassee... well, he just wants to achieve the Zombie Kill of the Year. Little Rock's antics pay off for him more than anyone, because he gets to check out some Elvis memorabilia in Memphis and meets a woman who seems to be perfect for him. Comedy sequels can have trouble recapturing the magic of character interactions, and can even fail to make characters as fun to be around a second time. DOUBLE TAP is a sequel that gets it right.

SUPPORTING CAST

There's barely a supporting cast in this film. Columbus has a flashback to his first encounter with a zombie, allowing Amber Heard to show up as his former neighbor, who seeks his help when she has a scary run-in with a flesh-eating homeless person. Heard plays her role just fine, but it's not much of a role. Mike White makes a fun appearance in another flashback. The only survivor our heroes meet on their road trip is Bill Murray, who shows up to steal the show for about 7 minutes. Made up like a zombie so he can blend in, Murray hangs out with Tallahassee and Wichita, smokes a hookah, uses a vaccuum cleaner to play Ghostbusters, then makes his exit. It's one of the best cameos ever.

Bill Murray gets another epic cameo in the film, although it doesn't come along until the end credits. It's not quite as good as his first cameo, but it offers the sight of him killing zombies while Kenny Loggins' "I'm Alright" from CADDYSHACK plays on the soundtrack, so that's awesome. Avan Jogia is perfectly douchey as the guy Little Rock goes off with, Rosario Dawson has a fun role as a potential love interest for Tallahassee, Luke Wilson shows up to butt heads with Tallahassee, and Thomas Middleditch is kind of irritating as a Columbus doppelgänger. The best new addition is Zoey Deutch, who is hilarious as Madison, an airhead who gets between Columbus and Wichita.

LAUGHS

The character interactions in ZOMBIELAND provide a steady stream of laughs; the dialogue scripted by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick is packed with amusing lines, and it's great fun to watch the neurotic nebbish Columbus, the irreverent Tallahassee, and the troublemaking sisters bounce off of each other. While reactions to Wichita and Little Rock's antics are funny, it's kind of surprising how few of the laughs come directly from Emma Stone; you'd expect her Wichita to be one of the funnier characters. Mike White brings some laughs to his cameo, and of course Bill Murray displays comedic brilliance during his appearance.

Reese and Wernick returned to write more fun dialogue for the characters, and here they got some help from Dave Callaham. I didn't feel that ZOMBIELAND: DOUBLE TAP was as funny as its predecessor, but it's still a delight to watch Columbus and Tallahassee bounce off each other. Emma Stone was able to be more amusing as Wichita this time around, dealing with the love triangle she finds herself in with Columbus and the dimwitted Madison. Speaking of her, Zoey Deutch provides more laughs than anyone in this film, her demeanor and line deliveries as Madison are fantastic. Then Bill Murray brings brilliance to the end credits.

ZOMBIE ACTION

The zombies in ZOMBIELAND are the type that have been infected with a rage virus and can move at a sprint, allowing for plenty of fast paced action sequences. The zombie fun starts with a Metallica-fueled opening title sequence and action scenes come along frequently throughout the film, whether they involve the characters clearing out stores, trying to outrun zombies in a parking lot, attempting to earn the Zombie Kill of the Week award, or having their first encounter with a zombie in flashback. It all builds up to a very cool extended action sequence set in the Pacific Playland, which has our heroes battling zombies on rides and inside a "haunted" funhouse attraction.

DOUBLE TAP also gives us some zombie action right up. In fact, the Columbia logo even comes alive to dispatch zombies, then the film jumps into another Metallica-fueled, zombie-fighting title sequence. It does feel like there are longer stretches between moments of action in this film than there were in the first one, but there are a few standout sequences. Our heroes mow down zombies while attempting to acquire an RV; there's a battle in a hotel that is presented as if it's one continuous take (I'm assuming there are hidden cuts); and it builds up to CGI mayhem involving a zombie horde, a monster truck, and the Great American Zombie Jump. I still prefer that Pacific Playland sequence, though.

ZOMBIELAND

When I need to choose between the two films, I have to go with the first ZOMBIELAND, but that's how it is with most original films and their sequels. ZOMBIELAND: DOUBLE TAP is a worthy follow-up, and I think it was worth the wait. It's great to see Columbus, Tallahassee, Wichita, and Little Rock back in action... even if I preferred the action of their first film.

Do you agree with the outcome of this Face-Off, or did you think DOUBLE TAP bested its predecessor? Share your thoughts on these films in the comments section below. If you have any suggestions for future Face-Off articles, you can send them to me at [email protected].

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