Released: 17th October
Seen: 11th November
Zombieland 2: Double Tap is a film that exists for reasons I don’t quite understand. At least, I don’t understand why it exists right now. In 2009 when the original Zombieland came out in cinemas it was still a good time for Zombie-related media, the hit series The Walking Dead was still a year away so having a comedy film about a bunch of people surviving in a zombie wasteland felt fresh and new. The style choices and tone all felt like something we hadn’t seen before and it was one of the funniest films of the time and still holds up today. It’s not like they didn’t try to get a sequel out right away, but everything languished in development hell so long that now we’re so far past the prime time for Zombie movies that Disney felt like they could do one. So how do you make a comedic take on a topic that’s already been wrung dry? Well… you just do the same stuff you did the last time only with a tiny upgrade in the technology and the zombies.
We once again spend the entire movie with Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin). They haven’t changed a bit in the decade since we last saw them and have finally found a safe place in the White House where they expect to be able to make a fairly satisfying life for themselves. Unfortunately, a decade of trying to stay alive hasn’t helped any of them develop a brain because Little Rock and Wichita end up running away with a car and some ammunition so they can go out on the road (you know, the road filled with flesh-eating hell beasts). When Wichita returns without Little Rock, the three friends tag up to find Little Rock before she gets found by a new breed of Zombie called the T-8000. Along the way, they’ll run into some more kooky characters who are trying to survive in this deserted wasteland known as Zombieland.
It’s nothing short of a blessing from the gods that they were able to get the old cast to come back for this because they slipped back into their old characters like a well-worn pair of blue suede shoes. Half of the comedy of this movie is sitting there thinking “This cast have multiple Oscar nominations between them and they just did the dumbest thing I’ve seen”, which was admittedly was a good portion of the comedy last time (back when it was only Breslin and Harrelson with Oscar nominations) but now the joke is so blatant that it’s in the trailer. You can almost see the writers being so gleeful that they managed to get some prestigious names to play with their silly Zombies again. The old chemistry is still there, they all bounce off each other with incredible ease and the scenes where all four of them are together are a joy. The problem is that the plot requires Breslin to be off with a bunch of hippies for most of the film, replacing her with a dumb blonde named Madison (Zoey Deutch) who is only funny when everyone else is pointing out how dumb she is. There is no real proper substitute for Breslin for the bulk of the film where she isn’t with the other three so it never feels right.
There’s a whole lot of plot threads in this film that seems to go nowhere. Don’t get wildly attached to any brand new characters because they won’t be around for long. The main goal of “Let’s go get Little Rock” is treated as though it’s not that important, not even as important as the last movie’s big arching plot which was “I want a twinkie”. It’s almost like they don’t even want to find her, they take so many stops along the way that aren’t needed and needlessly delay themselves for no reason that it strains credibility. I can accept that it might take a while to drive from the White House to Graceland, Google Maps tells me it’s a 13-hour drive but accounting for “No cops to enforce speed limits” and “Tallahassee is a maniac” it would’ve been 12. They just keep delaying it for no reason, these plot cul-de-sacs just end up feeling like a waste of time since they don’t add anything. All the relevant info is either slipped in cleverly during the White House scenes or told to us by the omnipotent fourth-wall-breaking voice over.
Even though there is a lot of plot stuff that feels like it was tacked on to fill runtime, it’s fortunately still pretty good. Much as I spent a lot of time going “Uh, guys, aren’t you meant to be going after Little Rock now?” because they were so damn slow, there was enough comedy that I found myself cackling at several sequences. The comic timing with the cast still works, Harrelson’s delivery is as brilliant as ever and Emma Stone has honed her sarcastic tone to a point so sharp it should be classified as a lethal weapon. They make every single bit of dialogue work, the jokes are still really funny. The action scenes still have a great visual flair, including one glorious single take battle in the middle of the movie that plays with space and time with deft hands. There’s a lot of good here, I’m not about to deny that… but most of it was done much better in the original movie and we’re not adding anything here.
Zombieland 2: Double Tap is just a little more Zombieland. It’s not going to change the game and it’s not even as great as the original, but it’s still kind of enjoyable. There’s still a lot of jokes to enjoy and while the style hasn’t changed, it still works. It’s basically what you might expect from a sequel that took a decade to get made, it’s not essential or even that impressive but it’ll certainly entertain you for a while.
PS: There’s a mid-credits scene that’s so good that it takes up that .5 in the rating. Seriously, I laughed harder during that final credits scene than I did during most of the movie, it’s that fun.