Zombieland Double Tap movie review: A potent antidote to The Walking Dead but still an unworthy sequel
Zombieland Double Tap is a jolly referendum on zom-coms and sequels in this age of mass-produced franchise cinema.
castWoody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin, Rosario Dawson, Zoey Deutch, Luke Wilson, Thomas Middleditch, Avan Jogia
In the last decade or so, the undead have officially usurped the vampires and werewolves to become the principal horror archetype of popular culture. But during the same period, we have also fallen in and out of love with the show that made it possible — The Walking Dead. Because after a while, the showrunners decided to eschew genre thrills in favour of a weekly ethics debate.
Thankfully, Zombieland: Double Tap is not guilty of this — and that is what makes it a potent The Walking Dead antidote. Like Zombieland, it delivers a horror comedy experience with a contagious sense of adventure. Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, who wrote not just the original but also the two Deadpool films, have a deep reverence towards genre tropes but it never stops them from revelling in their irreverence.
However, the ingenuity of the original Zombieland seems to haunt this sequel to such an extent it is almost impossible to appreciate it on its own terms. Ruben Fleischer serves almost exactly the same recipe but without cooking it to perfection. He takes the road trip through the apocalypse scenario, adds more offbeat characters, slo-mo kills and over-the-top antics, and amps it all the way up to a near-exasperating 11.
It has been 10 years since a man ate a tainted burger, and doomed the world forever. The film begins in true genre subversive fashion as Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) takes over the narration to thank us viewers for picking his movie over the other available "choices in zombie entertainment". Then, that infectious three-note descending riff of Metallica’s 'Master of Puppets' kicks off a sequence of slo-mo zombie killing. More text graphics pop up on screen to introduce Columbus's rules and the Zombie Kill of the Year, but even that lost its novelty factor one Deadpool ago.
Our beloved makeshift family have taken refuge in the deserted White House. Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) has turned into a helicopter father figure to Little Rock (Abigail Breslin), who has a bad case of teenage hormones and cannot wait to get away. Columbus's relationship with Wichita (Emma Stone) has somehow lasted through the decade but she is not ready to play husband and wife yet. So the sisters leave a note and run away to move the plot forward — and the men follow.
On their various misadventures before eventual reunion, they come across a host of colourful characters. There is Madison (Zoey Deutch), who is your stereotypical Valley Girl but has a single moment of genius when she serendipitously comes up with the idea for Uber, but the others laugh it off. Elvis fangirl Nevada (Rosario Dawson) sadly exists primarily to give Tallahassee a love interest. There is also Little Rock's love interest, Berkeley, who is just the worst kind of the hipster doofus. He greets people with namaste, and even pretends to have composed Bob Dylan's 'Like a Rolling Stone' and Lynyrd Skynyrd's 'Free Bird'.
In another tired effort at self-parody, it introduces supposed doppelgangers of Tallahassee and Columbus in Albuquerque (Luke Wilson) and Flagstaff (Thomas Middleditch) for a funny bit. But somehow, they are all oblivious to their shared oddities even as Albuquerque and Tallahassee try to out-Alpha each other and Flagstaff and Columbus try to out-nerd each other.
The cast is a hoot but Harrelson stands out yet again at the centre of all the chaos, delivering expletives and bullets in equal measure but also bringing genuine humanity when it is called for.
The zombies have also evolved into a harder-to-kill variety that gives them a Left 4 Dead feel. They are named according to their intelligence and abilities; So, there are the dumb zombies aka Homers, the smart ones aka Hawkings, the fast ones aka Ninjas, and then the boss aka T-800.
Zomcoms work best when the zombies make us face our fear of death, and the comedy dares us to laugh in the face of it. Zombieland worked because even when it threw you a double whammy of guts and giggles, it still made sure to keep its heart intact. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the sequel.
Zombieland: Double Tap is not the best zombie movie of this decade (Train to Busan takes that crown). It is not the best zombie comedy of this decade either (it is hard to surpass One Cut of the Dead). It is barely a sequel worthy of having the Zombieland name attached to it. But it is a jolly referendum on zom-coms and sequels in this age of mass-produced franchise cinema.
But I am not sure where we can go with the genre from here. We have more than enough films about the undead to last us a lifetime. And frankly, we are all tapped out.
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