Zombieland: Double Tap (Movie Review)

Last Updated on July 30, 2021

Review: What makes ZOMBIELAND: DOUBLE TAP as riotous and worthy a follow-up almost as much as it is an objectively worse one is the fact that everyone involved knows exactly what made the first one such a unique, blood-splattered little gem. For better and worse, everything that made the original movie a special entry in the zombie comedy subgenre is doubled down on here: A terrific ensemble cast, brilliant undead kills, meta gags out of both barrels, the elaboration on certain rules, and catchy quotables. How much you enjoy the movie will entirely depend on how much you appreciate all that being thrown at you like a wave of bone-munching monsters.

Picking up ten years after we were last with the gang, we’re back with Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) as they travel the countryside, having a blast blasting away zombies and shacking up in apocalypse dream hideouts – in this case – the White House. Not much has changed between any of them, with Tallahassee still being a lovable, goofy hardass, Columbus still having a tinge of awkwardness despite a boost in confidence, and Stone still being way cooler than the lot of them. Breslin’s Little Rock has changed the most, coming into adulthood and wanting more that this makeshift family can give them.

This soon sets in motion the too easily landed upon plot device of Little Rock and Wichita bailing on the other two after feeling things were getting a bit too comfortable. Tallahassee reaches the same conclusion too after no time at all, which begs the question of just how far they’ve come after being together all these years. Wouldn’t they feel a bit closer at this point, with the concept of leaving it all behind much, much more difficult to land upon? The movie bounces between a yes and a no on that angle, and the three unite to track down Little Rock after she ventures out on her own with a one-semester-of-college hipster named Berkley (Avan Jogia).

As I said, what made the first movie work so well was the chemistry between the original four, and while Breslin is stuck in middling scenes with Jogia, the other three get to work their magic together with a comfortable vibe filled with free-flowing banter that makes seeing them all together again as entertaining as ever. Joining them are new additions like Zoey Deutch's Madison, a caricature of a dim-witted millennial who luckily missed out on the social media craze. Deutch owns every minute of her time on screen, not just stealing some moments with perfectly timed lines but fitting right into the dynamic of the returning stars.

Take for instance Columbus’ massive list of rules. A distinct feature of the original that highlighted the character’s comic paranoia and made for some clever design elements to throw at the screen, they are exhausted here as if writers Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese believed them one of the top bits from the last movie. Rules like “Cardio”, “Double Tap”, and “Limber Up” pop up on the screen so many different times and in so many different typefaces that it feels like an assault. There’s even a several-minute bit between Columbus and Flagstaff (Thomas Middleditch) – the latter meant to be a sort of doppelganger – as they compare their rules and uncanny similarities and noticeable differences. Eisenberg and Middleditch have good enough comedic timing and a solid back and forth to make it funny-annoying-funny again flow, but by the end, I just wanted a cocky doctor from a television cop show to come in and drop a dramatic line about throwing out the rule book.

Stack on top of that numerous callbacks to quotes from the original that fans will perhaps love to hear but could easily go right over the audience’s heads. Aside from those little lines, bits like Columbus being afraid of clowns is back, as is Tallahassee’s hatred of minivans and his catchphrase, “Nut up or shut up,” which is mocked as being “so 2009” at one point. It’s in these small but noticeable moments where the movie is trying too hard to reach back ten years and bring back all the good stuff for the people who remember it most. For the more passionate fans, this will be the furthest thing from a problem, but anyone hoping for at least some sense of newness in the characters after 10 years may leave with their appetite unfulfilled.

As for a vicious appetite, a welcome improvement comes in the form of slicker action and bloodier kills, with director Ruben Fleischer having more confidence behind the camera after taking on bigger projects over the last few years. Blood gushes more freely, hits land harder, and taking a video game-esque approach, the sequel offers evolved zombies with clever nicknames, providing new, varying threats to the team. This is explored a bit with more aggressive zombies called “T-800s”, but in the end, they go down just as easy as ever come the finale. Speaking to that, look to the climax for another piece of recycled material, a massive horde attacking a brightly lit set-piece after the gang is reunited – only this time around it’s far less colorful and clever.

Unlike lots of comedy sequels that woefully misunderstand what made the originals work (ZOOLANDER 2, DUMB AND DUMBER TO), ZOMBIELAND: DOUBLE TAP indeed embraces the right things that made the original such a delight. At times that can veer off into territory that can’t but come off as a bit too easy and even pandering – but I would be lying to myself and all of you if I said it still wasn’t a bucket of fun. The cast is just as sharp as ever and the writers give them plenty of witty material to work with, and the zombie action offers more than enough wonderful gore to spare.  Zombieland is still a ton of fun to visit after all these years, but instead of waiting another ten years for another sequel, maybe just jump to a limited series where there are more bloody adventures to be had, and where Tallahassee can work on some new catchphrases. 

Source: Arrow in the Head

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