Review: Zombieland: Double Tap

Zombieland was released 10 years ago. Since then it has become one of the most beloved horror-comedies of all time, accruing a sizable cult following. It’s always interesting when a film is considered a “classic” after only a few years, but there was something about the makeshift family making their way to a fictional California Theme Park that was an instant hit with fans. The first movie was released at a time when zombies weren’t yet abused in Hollywood: I found 19 noteworthy zombie-based films since 2009, and that’s not even counting television and streaming series like The Walking Dead and Santa Clarita Diet. Zombieland: Double Tap had hype to live up to the fun, adventurous standard of its predecessor but falls far short. If you enjoyed Zombieland as much as I did, go into this one with tempered expectations.
Wichita, Columbus, Little Rock, and Tallahassee are back with all their sarcasm. Since we saw them last, they moved into the White House, aged a bit…..and I think that’s about it. Aware of other survivors but deciding to keep to themselves in order to stay alive doesn’t sit well for the grown up Little Rock, who is itching to be around people more her age. After she runs away with a roadside hippie, the dysfunctional group must work together to not only find her before its too late, but to strengthen their own struggling familial bonds as well.
There is unfortunately not a lot to say about the story of this film. The plot started running in several different directions but never actually settled on anything except for finding Little Rock. A post-apocalyptic group trying to survive…a scorned lover teaming up with a snarky cowboy to have fun in a zombie wasteland…a teenage kid on the run with Bad News Berkeley and a bag of weed…a combination of 60’s and 70’s game shows like The Newlywed Game, Let’s Make a Deal, and Match Game (except with zombies). The disconnected plotlines were the true horror of this zombie film. Also, how long has it been? 6 years? 8 years? We aren’t told what’s happened to anyone during that time, which I can begrudgingly live with, but where’s the character development? How far in the future is Columbus broadcasting from? The movie has the same actors, writers, and director, yet can’t manage the same quality of excitement.
The only saving grace of the film is the characters, particularly Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) and Wichita (Emma Stone). I kind of just want to punch Jesse Eisenberg in the face this entire film for acting like he’s all that and a bag of chips, and Abigail Breslin is only used as a plot device so she barely counts. Each character pretty much works as well as they did in the last movie and has as many memorable moments, but I’m not convinced that they have grown any closer together since we last saw them. A few new characters are introduced this time, including Nevada (Rosario Dawson), Madison (Zoey Deutch), and the short-lived Albuquerque (Luke Wilson) and Flagstaff (Thomas Middleditch). I actually think these new characters brought as much if not a little more to the plot than the returning ones did. Madison is a dumb blonde, one-night stand who seriously commits to the role and is just as annoying as Columbus but you sorta see her as a disposable character so her ridiculous comments settle just fine. Even Albuquerque and Flagstaff have a moment before it’s ruined by pointing out every last similarity to Tallahassee and Columbus. Regardless, the fun moments of each character are what carry this floating turd of a film and are just enough for me to have enjoyed it once and then forget it ever happened.
A few other reasons why this movie doesn’t work:
1) The callbacks to Zombieland. There are a few that work really well. And there are many that are way too over-used or over-emphasized. Good sequels shouldn’t revisit the good parts of the first film, but use the tone and small moments to build on for new content.
2) They introduced a neat idea in the opening scene of zombies evolving and the new menace they can bring, but then completely ignored it for the rest of the film. In fact, they literally ran it off a building to splat on the ground below. Where are the ninjas?!?!?
3) For the first half of the film, the characters are talking about and then go looking for Graceland. Other than Tallahassee substituting his Twinkies obsession for Elvis, the setting works. But it is also quickly discarded for a new setting, the love and peace community of Babylon, which brings no added depth to the story nor any great characters.
4) The budget of this movie almost doubled that of the first film which can partly be due to the A-list cast, but also there is more blood and guts and CGI. A reason the first movie worked well is that they kept it simple with a few “zombie kill” moments. I didn’t return to the theatre to watch World War Z CGI zombies. Give me small, fun zombie moments over a monster truck vs. zombie horde any day.
Despite the laughs, when a movie fails to find its beating heart it turns out like Zombieland: Double Tap. What was originally set to become a streaming series, the second film finds little success in the continuation of a beloved zombie setting. This is one that you can either wait to catch on Netflix for free or let rot until our own zombie apocalypse hits, and I’d recommend the latter. But in other news, I finally finished a streaming series! I’m still working on a few others, but I will work to get a review up sometime this next week, and I’m excited to talk about it because it’s set in the universe of one of my favorite, under-appreciated 1980’s films šŸ™‚ Cheers!

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