A decade ago Zombieland was released to rave reviews and box office success. It was a refreshingly fun take on the horror sub-genre and staked its claim on a rather short list of great zombie movies. With this success, it was only a matter of time until Sony pursued a sequel. So, here we are 10 years later, and the sequel is merely a rehash of the first film, only this time it’s bigger and louder.
Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), Wichita (Emma Stone), and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) have built a moderately functional family with each other and have found a new home, which happens to be the White House. Columbus and Wichita have settled into domesticity, while Little Rock and Tallahassee have formed a father-daughter bond. The family unit is disrupted by Little Rock’s teen angst and desire to flee the nest; thanks in large part to Tallahassee’s overbearing nature. Matters get worse when Columbus misreads signals and pushes Wichita into flight mode with a grand romantic gesture. Meanwhile, in Zombieland the zombie situation is escalating with the virus mutating, creating a deadlier zombie.
In this sequel, we have our characters behaving in ways that directly contradict the lessons learned in the first film, and if you haven’t seen it, beware of spoilers. Obviously, foolish mistakes during a zombie apocalypse is a given, but the first film made it a point to mock those missteps and have our characters be the exception (to an extent). The final showdown with the zombies in the previous film was due to Wichita and Little Rock attracting the zombies to their location by turning on Pacific Playland (an amusement park). The lesson learned here, and throughout the film, is that zombies are attracted to bright lights and loud sounds. Also, it is safer to be part of a team. Yet, in the sequel, it is as though the characters have forgotten that and act rather blasé about their current predicament. The film also didn’t do itself any favours by having the final act be a near carbon copy of the final act in Zombieland.
A lot of the enjoyment is depleted by our rather capable characters acting stupidly. Perhaps a better way to approach the sequel would have been to challenge our protagonists instead of regressing them. One way for that to occur is with the new characters, who serve no purpose other than to be new faces for our leads interact with. Despite commendable work by Zoey Deutch as Madison, the new ensemble are rather underwhelming and have little effect on the story. Also, it is an utter crime to include Rosario Dawson in your cast and not have her in a significant role that expands beyond being a love interest. We have been down this road one too many times already.
These new characters only function to inconvenience our characters, or for jokes that don’t land. They add nothing new or significant to the story. Which begs the question, why have them at all? Avan Jogia’s Berkley had the potential of being an interesting character but is instead a plot device to push Little Rock into running away.
The film also features Luke Wilson and Thomas Middleditch who play the doppelgängers of Eisenberg and Harrelson, who are already doubling down on their character’s schticks from the first film. It’s a plot line that is only brought in to derail the characters and serve as a comedic beat. It doesn’t quite land because they don’t fully commit to the idea for more than five minutes. On that note, if they were to lean into the doppelgänger plot line then Ruth Wilson and Bailee Madison should have been cast to be Stone’s and Breslin’s doppelgängers. One of the many missed opportunities.
The movie seems to distrust the talent on-screen to deliver, and instead has the actors reciting subpar quips to each other. With an ensemble that is exceptionally funny and talented, there are so many more things the script could have included for all the characters to say or do that would elicit boisterous laughter from the audience. Dawson, Breslin, and Stone are under-utilised the most. They have their moments, but they are not given nearly the same amount of opportunities to be funny. Stone has proven time and time again to be a very capable comedienne, yet most of her arc is solely focused on finding her sister (understandable), and her relationship with Columbus. Dawson is simply a love interest, and Breslin is barely on the screen when she is she is a sounding board for the comedic beats of the other characters. Again, Deutch steals the show with her wildly entertaining ditzy blonde act.
However, in light of the underwhelming nature of Zombieland: Double Tap, there is some enjoyment to be had. There are some callbacks to the first film that will get a few chuckles. The ensemble have a great rapport with each other that recaptures the magic of Zombieland. Sadly, there are some comedic beats, namely Tallahassee’s strange tale of being a descendant of Native Americans, that could have been left on the cutting room floor. With that unfortunately in the mix, it’s hard to not get sucked in by the undeniably charismatic actors on-screen, even when they are given less than what they deserve.
The lesson to be learned here is that not all great movies will have equally great sequels. Sequels to comedies are even harder. But, it seems what fails this movie is the lack of ambition to raise the stakes or do anything different. Making things brighter and louder doesn’t count as doing things differently. Zombieland: Double Tap is just another sequel that doesn’t make it. Hopefully, it isn’t resurrected for a third film.
Zombieland: Double Tap is in cinemas now
by Ferdosa Abdi
Ferdosa Abdi is a lifelong film student and aspiring film festival programmer. Her favourite genres are science-fiction, fantasy, and horror and her favourite director is Guillermo del Toro. She is madly in love with Eva Green and believes she should be cast in everything. You can follow Ferdosa on Twitter @atomicwick