What They Say:
Columbus, Tallahassee, Wichita, and Little Rock move to the American heartland as they face off against evolved zombies, fellow survivors, and the growing pains of the snarky makeshift family.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
While much can be made of the ten-year gap between films, what with all the attempts at other iterations that shall not be spoken of, Zombieland is back with its sequel. The original film, which predates The Walking Dead and gets a good prodding here as the timeline of when things went to hell doesn’t really matter, is not the kind of film that I expect to do huge. It’s not exactly a cult film but it’s one that has a good following and fits in the model of other zombie comedy films that have come out in the last couple of years. I’m still revisiting Anna and the Apocalypse every few months for a zombie Christmas musical. Can Zombieland: Double Tap compete in this kind of environment even with all the main creative back?
I’m pretty sure it can.
With it taking place ten years later, the basic premise is that the group with Columbus, Tallahassee, Wichita, and Little Rock have found themselves at the White House for a few years, setting up shop in a pretty safe and secure place after cleaning it out. They’re living high on lots of supplies and fun things to play with. But that creeping need for change is there for most of them. While Columbus is proposing to Wichita, who has no desire to settle down in this world, Little Rock wants to hang with people her own age, get a boyfriend, smoke some weed, and feel alive. Tallahassee even has the urge to get back out into the world as wandering has always been his thing. Luckily and unluckily for him, Wichita bolts with Little Rock in tow (only for Little Rock to abandon her for Berklee when they find this peace, love, and weed dude) and that means Tallahassee gets to hit the road with Columbus again. Eventually.
The film gives us a bit of time with everyone apart before it brings them all back together at different stages and that’s welcome even if mildly repetitive and standard fare. The world has changed since we last saw everyone as we learn there are now three types of zombies with the homers, your idiot types that are largely harmless, your hawkings that are a bit smarter and more dangers, and your ninjas which are self-explanatory. But there’s also a new breed out there that takes a lot more to kill as they’re very tough and resilient. While a single headshot used to do the trick it now takes a dozen or more headshots to finally crush them down. And there’s a good horde of them running around fast out there causing trouble. It’s a nice way to bump up the danger element and explore the different types a little more but it’s a take it or leave it addition overall.
We do get a lot of the familiar with some mild mocking by love and all, such as when a group that’s a variant of the core group shows up and we get a whole rules showdown, we get a wonderful Bill Murray bit, and other things that tie it together well with the first. But most things with our core group haven’t really grown beyond Little Rock from a kid into a young woman wanting to experience life. So most of the new comes from external factors. The first is Zoey Deutch arriving to play Madison. She’s survived in a mall for most of the ten years by hiding in the freezer of one of the restaurants since there’s still power in a lot of places (amusingly explained in-movie). Madison’s a lot of fun as they play the dumb blonde trope and while they don’t subvert it you do get kind of frustrated with the core group in how they treat a fellow survivor. I do like that since she’s been on her own for so long one of the first things she actually wants is sex as it’s usually couched a bit whereas she’s blunt.
The other new addition is Rosario Dawson as Nevada, which plays into Tallahassee’s love of Graceland when the road trip takes a bad turn that way. Dawson is always great in pretty much all of her roles but she gets to play a little more fun here and hams it up just enough so that it works. I do think she’s a bit more underutilized in the story, not that Deutch is used for it all that much either, but both bring some freshness to the film that wasn’t really required so I can appreciate that. If the film had stuck with just the core four and ran with whatever they wanted to without bringing semi-regulars it would have worked fine. The one thing that kept sticking at the back of my mind is that similar to The Walking Dead, even with the heightened zombies you never really got the sense that they were in any danger (I know, I know, you know what I mean) because they’ve long mastered how to take them down. So the zombie killing aspects didn’t feel quite as engaging or as fun as before, especially since the new strain really just required a lot more lead pumped into them.
I had watched the original film a few weeks ago prior to this opening and had a good time with it but the usual issue applies when it comes to sequels, whether two years on or ten years on. The first film can dazzle with introductions, setup, and getting us to see the potential in this new world. Sequels have to move it forward which isn’t easy because you want to lean on introducing new characters to recapture the lightning. Zombieland: Double Tap isn’t quite trying to do that and it’s why it does work as well as it did for me. It clocks in at just 84 minutes or so and never felt like it dragged or didn’t know what to do with its time. Splitting the group up into different configurations helped, something I usually really dislike, but it all connected well here and made for a very fun experience. It’s definitely going to be a great double feature later on when you can go back to back just to see how everyone has aged in ten years. Definitely a fun film and if you’ve never seen the first and have no aversions to zombie films it’s a great way to spend a little time.