Ten years ago, when the zombie craze was at its peak a little Zom-Com called Zombieland came out and help invent the entire genre of Zom-Com. The film, which at the time starred some of Hollywood’s biggest up-and-comers, was smart, clever, and a massive hit. It dissected the burgeoning rebirth of the zombie genre, made fun of the cliches, and was also impressively full of heart and really good comedy.
Now, ten years later, a sequel has finally been made, but a lot has changed since then. The zombie thing kind of crested right around the time the U.S. government got in on the joke, every actor in the film is now an Oscar-nominated performer, and we’ve had so many take-downs of the genre already that one more seems kind of redundant. So what can Zombieland: Double Tap offer us that hasn’t already been done to death and shot in the had twice?
Turns out nothing much. Also, it turns out that doesn’t really matter because it’s still funny as hell.
Zombieland: Double Tap
Director: Ruben Fleischer
Release Date: October 18, 2019
Zombieland: Double Tap picks up an unspecified amount of time after the original, a point that Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) mocks right away in his fourth-wall-breaking narration. Our lovable gang of misfit zombie killers is living in the white house. Columbus and Wichita (Emma Stone) are still dating and Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) have a father/daughter relationship going on. The girls are not so happy with the situation, though, eventually leaving Columbus and Tallahassee and stealing their car. But when Little Rock runs off with a pacifist, Wichita returns and the trio set out to rescue her from hippies (and zombies).
I’ll be the first to admit that if this movie came out two years after the original this review would be drastically different. Zombieland: Double Tap is pretty much more of the same and usually that gets a sequel dinged when it lands because the point of a sequel should be to do something new, not rehash the old. However, as mentioned before, ten years is a long time so instead of the film feeling like its treading comedic water everything feels fresh again. The structure, plotting, and even some of the gags might be repetitious to the original but time heals all wounds and so everything in Double Tap pretty much feels new again… kind of.
The film is hilarious both in thanks to a whip smart, tight-as-hell screenplay that never gives you time to stop laughing and its strong cast, who just seem to be having a blast not trying to win Oscars this time around. The zombie comedy, especially the meta stuff, could have played as pretty trite but is both kept to a minimum and delivered from a cast who knows how to work it. The movie’s real comedy, however, doesn’t come from the zombie gags but from the relationship between the characters and humor that would work both in and out of a zombie apocalypse. New character Madison (Zoey Deutch) is especially funny in an overly ditzy role that would feel cliche elsewhere but somehow works here.
It’s a good thing all the self-referential comedy, not to mention the gory zombie killing, works because the plot is basically a repeat of the original. Abigail Breslin’s character is woefully under used in the film while we see the same story beats that the last movie had play out in slightly different ways. The themes of family and friendship are the same and the movie functions in much the same way as the original but with more powerful zombies. It’s been ten years, though, and that’s enough time for most of us to forget about the specific story beats of the original and have this set up feel original all over again.
Ruben Fleischer directs the film with the same competence that made the original work. There’s a fantastic extended fight sequence with Columbus and Tallahassee and some zombies that takes place in one take in a small house. Mostly, however, the director just kind of stays out the way, letting his cast’s chemistry play out on the screen and the screenplay work its humor. He also, smartly, keeps the movie short. There’s no wasted time here to bog anything down. Fleischer knows the point of the film is to make people laugh and kill zombies and he does so repeatedly. In a world where the zombie-genre is layered in metaphor Double Tap just does not care in the least. It makes fun of everyone, delivers zombies that are just that, and then kills them in cartoonish ways.
If you watched Zombieland last night then heading out to the theater to see Double Tap will feel redundant. It really is just the same movie done a bit differently. The majority of the audience, however, probably hasn’t seen the original since it landed in theaters and for them Zombieland: Double Tap will feel fresh, funny, and fun. There’s nothing new here for the genre like the original film delivered but there’s definitely something refreshingly old school about the movie.