Maybe I was out of the loop, but a “Zombieland” sequel was something I never saw coming. The first film came out on 2009 and supposedly everyone was keen on immediately doing a sequel. But the idea ended up in the proverbial development hell for several years before popping up out of the blue. It would finally hit theaters in late 2019 with its original cast still intact and few new faces thrown in for good measure.
Admittedly, I wasn’t a huge fan of “Zombieland” and nothing much in the 10 years since has really changed my mind. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t a bad movie and I get why it has its fans. But I wasn’t one who was clamoring for sequel or who ever expected one at this point. Yet here we are with “Zombieland: Double Tap”, a second helping that feels like the first film warmed over.
“Double Tap” doesn’t have much new to offer aside from a handful of side characters. The story is pretty bare-bones while the humor misses its mark as much as sticks its landing. Returning director Ruben Fleischer works hard to recapture the overall vibe of the original and the four returning stars are certainly game. But in the end the character arcs go nowhere and the sequel struggles to maintain the energy and charm that made its predecessor a surprise hit.
The film opens with a quick reintroduction to the four original survivors: the hyper-macho but warm-hearted redneck Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), the nerdy rule-bound Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), the tough outspoken fireball Wichita (Emma Stone), and the rebellious teen-spirited Little Rock (Abigail Breslin). Columbus is still our narrator and he explains their new categories of zombies (Homers are my favorite) while offering a refresher on how his goofy rules system works.
The four-pack have made their way to Washington DC and now live in the abandoned White House. Columbus and Wichita are still an item, Tallahassee still loves Elvis, and Little Rock is tired of hanging out with the ‘old’ folks on Pennsylvania Avenue. Things are going good until Columbus proposes to Wichita, she freaks out and sneaks off taking Little Rock with her.
A month passes and Columbus still laments Wichita leaving while Tallahassee pushes him to get over it. During that time they run into the first (and by far the best) of several new characters, a ditzy Valley Girl named Madison (Zoey Deutch). She’s essentially a one-note character but she’s such a hoot in the most air-headed way imaginable. Wichita show’s back up informing her old friends that Little Rock has ran off with a hippie pacifist named Berkeley. Not the best idea during a zombie apocalypse.
This basically sets the story in motion as the three (plus one blonde) set out on another road trip this time to find one of their own. Along the way they bump into a mixed bag of new characters, some work and are a lot of fun (Rosario Dawson), others not so much (Luke Wilson, Thomas Middleditch). And by the time we get to the big all-too-familair finale the story is running on fumes.
“Zombieland” helped pave the way towards further successes for most everyone involved. Fleischer would go on to direct the $860 million smash hit “Venom”. Co-writers Reese and Wernick wrote the two “Deadpool” movies that earned nearly $1.6 billion combined. Stone won an Oscar for “La La Land” while Eisenberg and Harrelson have each since received nominations. Hats off to all of them for approaching this sequel seriously and giving it their all. For me the novelty is gone. But to be fair, it wasn’t really there to begin with.
VERDICT – 2.5 STARS