FILM REVIEW – ZOMBIELAND: DOUBLE TAP. With Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Abigail Breslin, Emma Stone, Rosario Dawson. Written by Dave Callaham, Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick. Directed by Ruben Fleischer. Rated R for bloody violence, language throughout, some drug and sexual content. 99 minutes.
One of the unexpected surprises among a spate of “undead” films was “Zombieland” (2009), which managed to combine comedy and horror without shortchanging either. Did we need a sequel ten years later? Probably not, but ZOMBIELAND: DOUBLE TAP recaptures the comic momentum that drove the original. It may not be “The Godfather, Part II,” but on its own terms, it’s a worthy follow-up.
At the film’s opening, Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) are still together. Of course, things have changed. They’ve moved into the White House where Columbus and Wichita share the Lincoln Bedroom (and cover up the eyes on the portrait of the president). It’s clear there are tensions among the four that they’ve been avoiding, leading to the unexpected departure of half the crew.
What follows are a serious of misadventures where new characters are introduced as they variously wend their way to Babylon, a supposedly zombie-free enclave. Meanwhile, the zombies have evolved, including a variety who are seemingly indestructible. What makes the film fun is that the surviving humans remains as quirky as ever even as they’ve adapted to their new zombie-infested reality. For instance, the macho Tallahassee constantly carps about their having to travel in a minivan, with every other alternative proving a dead end.
Unlike other genre spoofs, the “Zombieland” movies only require knowledge of zombie movies in general, not any one film in particular. The one exception here is that a running joke – including a cameo by Bill Murray – requires some knowledge of the original. Like “Shaun of the Dead” (2004), these movies take the genre conventions as a given and then set their characters loose in this alternate reality.
Among the new arrivals here are Madison (Zoe Deutch), a Valley Girl who has been hiding out in a freezer at a shopping mall, Nevada (Rosario Dawson), operator of an Elvis shrine near the abandoned Graceland, and Albuquerque (Luke Wilson) and Flagstaff (Thomas Middleditch), a zombie-fighting team who bear an uncanny resemblance to characters we already know. The last two are part of the off-the-wall humor that was a hallmark of the earlier movie.
As for the principals, all four have been Oscar-nominated for other films with Stone a winner for “La La Land.” They slip back into their characters with ease, with the biggest challenge for Breslin who was 13 in the original and is now 23, with her character fighting to be treated as an adult. Little Rock’s romance with Berkeley (Avan Jogia) allows her to slowly reveal aspects of how growing up works in a zombiefied world.
There’s not likely to be any talk of “Zombieland: Double Tap” at next year’s Oscar ceremony, but for fans of the first movie, and those who can enjoy the mix of laughs and horror, it’s a winner.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His latest novel is Father of the Bride of Frankenstein. He is the 2018 recipient of the Skylark Award given by the New England Science Fiction Association. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.