I was 22 years old when the first Zombieland was released and I ate it up like it was made for me. It was in the early stages of that zombie-zeitgeist that made up a good portion of the 2010s, just after the previous run that spanned the late 90s to the mid-2000s. This was around the time I learned that I loved zombie stories. I got deep into Romero’s works, and played my fair share of the Resident Evil series.
So the idea of a comedy about zombies was inherently appealing and I fell in love with Zombieland. It’s been 10 years, though. I have grown… but Zombieland never did.
Catching up with Colombus and the Gang
Zombieland: Double Tap (2019) is a horror-comedy following a group of survivors around the undead USA. The film is a sequel to 2009’s Zombieland and reunites the entire cast (yes, even that one, the voice of a certain talking orange tabby). The film is set about a decade after the original film.
Being together for a decade is sure to test the limits of any family, and the story follows a slight fracturing as members of the core four seek to find something different. Eventually, Little Rock finds herself on the road with Berkley, a self-styled hippie, leading to a chase across the US to find Little Rock. The zombies of Zombieland, however, have evolved, bringing in a whole host of new challenges.
Double Tap shows the ongoing adventures of Columbus, Tallahassee, Witchita, and Little Rock, and introduces a much larger world compared to the lean original film. Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, and Abigail Breslin reprise their roles. The expanded cast also adds Rosario Dawson, Zoey Deutch, Luke Wilson, and Thomas Middleditch. And yes, Bill Murray returns. He’s become quite the zombie-fan it seems.
Ruben Fleischer returns to direct the sequel, written by Rhett Reese, Paul Wenick, and Dave Callaham.
What works about Zombieland: Double Tap?
Zombieland: Double Tap is basically a slight tweak on the first film, and that’s fine. It doesn’t aspire to do much beyond expand the scope of the world a bit and throw in a couple of roadblocks here and there. That’s fine. It’s just not all that compelling.
What worked with the original Zombieland has been diminished after about a decade of other zombie films and other comedies. As long as you don’t expect much, it is a fun little movie. There are some legitimately fun moments, such as a great one-take-style fight against two of the new “super zombies” in a tourist-trap motel themed around Elvis Presley. At this moment, and the moment just prior to – a rather meta meeting of archetypes – the movie is at its best.
The decision to expand the scope of the film by including so many other survivors is ultimately a neat idea, but it does not deliver much beyond that meta-gag of Columbus and Tallahassee’s doubles.
What didn’t work?
Double Tap feels like a sequel that came far too late. It feels slower and less bright, unlike those super-zombies, it introduces. It also is quick to raise interesting ideas and throw them aside as well. The ominous herd of these super-zombies seems like a real threat, especially when they establish them as individual threats. However, the ending kind of forgets how powerful and relentless these zombies are and it turns them into, again, a mindless horde.
The characters do not really feel all that interesting after ten years. Woody Harrelson still carries the film as Tallahassee and remains the highlight. The other characters, however, are highly static. Eisenberg’s Columbus comes off as more irritating than quirky ten years later. Emma Stone’s Wichita is curiously subdued and has an emotional arc that sort of doesn’t really work dramatically. Abigail Breslin’s Little Rock is playing the same notes from the first film, only a little surlier and full of teenage angst. Rosario Dawson’s Reno is just a sort of stock, Rosario Dawson role.
Zombieland: Double Tap is also just incredibly sterile-feeling for a film about flesh-eating undead. It has that reliance on CGI mayhem that strips the tangible threat of the zombies away. Zombies work best as practical effects and CGI blood carries absolutely no weight.
It all feels so toothless, which is what is so sad. But looking back on the original, which was something I did about a month ago, I realize that what worked then largely does not work now. I think I left Zombieland behind, there wasn’t that same sort of spark I had at 22 years old.
Zombieland: Double Tap is a safe and suitable follow up to the original, with an emphasis on safe. It is more of the same which will appeal to some viewers but ultimately left me feeling cold.
The mid-credit scene, however, is a lot of fun.(2 / 5)
Do you feel we were fair in our assessment of Zombieland: Double Tap? Why not check out some more of our reviews at Haunted MTL?