Zombieland, USA, 2019. 10 years have passed since we last saw our heroes Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), Wichita (Emma Stone), and Little Rock (Abagail Breslin). In the time spent since the first film, the gang has taken the now abandoned White House as their new home. Columbus and Wichita have hit a dry spell in their relationship and Tallahassee has since become an overbearing father figure to Little Rock who yearns to see more people her age. Also, those pesky Zombies have since begun to evolve into newer, deadlier threats. “Zombieland: Double Tap” is a long-awaited sequel that thankfully retains the first films big, warm heart and has enough laugh-out-loud moments to make fans happy.
Returning is the original cast, director Ruben Fleischer, and writers Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick. The original cast all maintain the infectious chemistry that made the first film so great and haven’t lost a step when reprising their characters. The witty banter and small moments between the cast still remain the best parts of this film. The characters are such a critical aspect to the success of the first film and that aspect is not lost in “Double Tap”.
The new additions to the cast are also a welcoming presence. Zoey Deutch is the films biggest scene-stealer as Madison, a ditsy valley girl who creates an even bigger rift between Columbus and Wichita. Deutch has impeccable comedic timing and her character is an absolute riot. She’s also not as one-note as you would expect, making her character consistently fun to watch. Rosario Dawson is Nevada, a tough owner of an Elvis-inspired motel who forms a bond with Tallahassee. Dawson brings her usual charisma to the role and has a fun, breezy chemistry with Harrelson.
Director Ruben Fleischer significantly improves his action sensibilities here since his previous film, last year’s “Venom”. The action set pieces in “Double Tap” are rousing and exceptionally well-directed. The most notable highlight is a prolonged sequence set at the Elvis motel with the scene attempting to appear in one long take. The sequence blends action, comedy and even horror to great effect.
“Double Tap” is unfortunately just too beholden to the first film to stand on its own. The character arcs are essentially the same and multiple scenes, beats and gags are repeated to lesser effect. Some of the comedy also becomes a bit hit-or-miss. A joke lifted straight from “Shaun of the Dead” goes on far too long and sucks the life out of the scene. When the comedy falters, thankfully there’s usually a humorous quip or funny gag soon after. The films mid-credits scene is a prime example of a joke going on for too long, that then is saved by a new, funnier scenario. Needless to say, you should definitely stick around for it, even if it is rather unnecessary.
“Zombieland: Double Tap” works best as an excuse to revisit these great characters and introduce new ones. It’s entertaining and consistently funny, but the lack of fresh ideas and slavish retread of the first films narrative ultimately prevents it from being anything greater. This is just good enough to make you glad it exists, but in hindsight, it probably could have better.