If you were to tell me two or three years ago that we might someday get a sequel to the 2009 zombie-comedy Zombieland, I would think you were crazy. I’ve obviously been a super-fan of that original movie, but I’m still shocked that the sequel is finally a real thing. Ten years after Zombieland, everyone involved with the movie had moved onto bigger, and in some cases, better things, so you might go into the movie wondering if there’s any possible way of recapturing the magic of that first movie from when everyone involved was still young and hungry. (Maybe not Woody Harrelson, who literally hasn’t changed in 20 years.)
Double Tap takes place ten years later and the quartet of Tallahassee (Harrelson), Jesse Eisenberg’s Columbus, Emma Stone’s Wichita and Abigail Breslin’s Little Rock have become quite comfortable living in the White House, safe from all the killer zombies. Little Rock is no longer a little kid, and she starts getting antsy about not having seen enough of the zombie-infested world. When Little Rock meets a musician named Berkeley (Avan Jogia), the two go on a journey to see Graceland with the other three trying to rescue her. On the way, they meet a number of other survivors, including the airheaded Montana, played by Zoey Deutch, and others, played by Rosario Dawson, Thomas Middleditch and Luke Wilson.
Zombieland: Double Tap starts with a fun introductory prologue updating the viewer on how the zombies have evolved in the ten years. That leads right into a fun Metallica-enhanced title sequence that sets the tone for what ends up being a slower re-introduction to the characters, now living in the White House, having gotten a little too adjusted to being the last survivors in a world overridden by brain-eating zombies.
In terms of the original Zombieland cast, it’s pretty amazing that all of them can jump right back into their roles seemingly so effortlessly, so you can probably watch this back-to-back with the original movie with Breslin’s age being the only giveaway that it shot ten years later. Harrelson is especially good, clearly relishing the chance to play a shit-kicking Southerner again, since his characters since first playing Tallahassee have run a fairly wide range. You can say the same for Eisenberg and Stone, who are now ten years older and far more experienced as actors than they were in 2009. The fact that they can recapture their characters’ youthful energy and naivety without missing a beat is also impressive.
The real scene-stealer of the movie is Zoey Deutch (daughter of ‘80s icon Lea Thompson) as Madison, who is so dumb and clueless but also incredibly positive compared to the inherent cynicism within the group. There’s another nice bump when Rosario Dawson shows up as the perfect match for Tallahassee, completely with a Monster Truck, but in some ways, it’s more fun watching Eisenberg and Middleditch nerd out over their respective rules (or commandments, in the case of Middleditch’s mirror image).
Maybe the only big issue I have with Double Tap is that there is not a ton of zombies in the first hour, as that’s basically set-up to build the dynamics between the original group with the newcomers. Things pick up exceedingly in the finale, which brings the group to a commune called Babylon that’s quickly overrun by swarm of “Terminator zombies” that seems much smarter than your average “Homer” (the name given to the dumber zombies that aren’t even worth killing).
As with his cast, director Ruben Fleischer seems to have become a lot more skilled at taking on the bigger set pieces and knowing how to let his cast have fun with their characters without letting any one of them dominate. Maybe there was less at stake with this than with last year’s Venom, and he was given more room by Sony to enjoy the experience making it, but it seems more like his movie than the first one.
This is still very much an ensemble piece where the three or four actors on screen at any given time require the others to make sure their jokes land properly. In that sense, writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernickhave also raised their game after working with Ryan Reynoldson Deadpooland its sequel. The humor in the film seems tighter, maybe since we already know the characters and need no further exposition about their pasts.
Sure, Zombieland: Double Tap takes a little more time to get going, but it’s a worthy successor to Zombieland, offering much more of what you liked originally and lots of original fun stuff. In other words, just about perfect as a sequel. Bring on Zombieland 3!
Rating: 8 out of 10
(If you’re hoping for more of Bill Murray in the sequel, you’ll want to stick around through the end credits. That is all I’ll say about that.)