Zombieland: Double Tap Is Unnecessary But Still Has Bite (Movie Review)

A decade is a long time for fans to wait to see the next installment of their favorite franchise. That tenth of a century waiting period can pay off big time like with Disney’s release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens… or not (we’re still waiting for Avatar 2). Enter Zombieland: Dobule Tap, a sequel to a surprise hit from 2009. In that time, the undead craze unearthed some bona fide hits like AMC’s The Walking Dead. Was ten years too long to wait for another romp with Columbus, Tallahassee, Wichita, and Little Rock? Yes… and no.

A fun-ish intro narrated by Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) assures viewers that writer/director Ruben Fleischer knows all this zombie stuff might a bit passé now. We quickly learn our four heroes have settled into that most deadly of creative ruts: domesticity. However, zombies are still out there.

Many zombies still die hilariously, but hauled up in the White House, Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) is as cranky as ever. That said, he’s fully embraced his role of surrogate pop to the youngest cast member, Little Rock (Abigail Breslin). He even gives her a present for Not Christmas (they celebrate in November): The King of Rock n Roll’s sidearm.

Meanwhile, Columbus and Wichita (Emma Stone) are pretty much a married couple. That is until Columbus blows it by asking for her hand in real marriage, with the Hope Diamond in ring form. Faster than you can read this sentence, domestic bliss is broken as the two gals take off, leaving behind only a poorly scrawled note.

At this point in the film’s 100-minute runtime, I started to think it may indeed have been a mistake to make another one of these. Despite writer/director Ruben Fleischer’s mostly okay pedigree in the action-comedy genre, I wasn’t sure if there was much to yet another road trip with the gun-totting, undead-killing fab four. And I still think I’m right as far as the OG crew is concerned.

Yes, the cast is still charming, with Stone being my favorite, but introducing a super zombie dubbed the “T-800” is weak sauce, as they are predictably faster and harder to kill. Ditto the dated onscreen rules Columbus likes to call attention to, aided by keyable graphics. Rule 2, for me, would note how comedy sequels rarely work, since the same kind of jokes get old fast. If this was all Double Tap had, the running time would have been a slog.

So thank the movie gods for Zoey Deutch and Rosario Dawson. Both have sizeable roles and are very welcome as new additions to the cast. As the crew travels from the White House to Graceland and beyond, in search of an MIA teammate, these two actresses bring much-needed bite and life to this undead pic.

Zoey Deutch (Set It Up) has been a scene-stealer since the git-go. I’m a huge Richard Linklater fan, but she was the only bright spot in Everybody Wants Some!!!, a film Linklater similarly made as a years-later attempt to recapture the zany nostalgia Dazed & Confused pulled off.

Back to Zoey. Time and time again, Leah Thompson’s daughter has never let me down. She’s a performer that knows the value of making interesting choices. She’s also a highlight in the latest Ryan Murphy series, The Politician, playing a teen suffering from Munchausen syndrome by proxy (And she’s still funny!). Here she plays Madison, a seemingly always happy person who, in our non-infested world, would have been a social influencer.

This airhead valley girl role could easily have been cringe-worthy, but Deutch brings the right level of enthusiasm to the role. I found it impossible not to want to hang out with her. Some acting guru once said playing dumb is one of the hardest, most challenging feats for even the greats. Marylin Monroe could pull it off, and Deutch proves to be quite adept herself.

As long as Madison was onscreen, I was having a ball. Even her outfits – 99% pink – are a great visual gag to the genre. Plus, she has terrific chemistry with the entire cast. It’s such an obvious idea to place a character who, by all logic, shouldn’t have survived the apocalypse. Yet, there’s a plot reason for how this is possible. Honestly, it’s not great but just go with it.

Dawson completes the other necessary new spark. She’s kind of playing a riff on her role in Death Proof as Nevada, the de-facto owner of the last remaining Elvis Presley-inspired hotel. She’s a tough as nails gal who can’t really say no to a fun time that includes drinks and guns. Nevada’s also a worthy match for Harrelson, who, up until her arrival, has never had much of a partner in either film.

As for the rest of the film, as the story climaxed with those super zombies and a location bereft of guns, the action got big, the explosions got louder, and it’s all… fine. Maybe Zombieland 3 can just let us hang out with Madison and Nevada as they look for ice cream and excellent cocktails (Yes, please).

Last thing: Fans of the original should definitely say thru the credits for not one but two scenes involving a particular former Zombieland all-star. It’s totally worth it.

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