Post updated November 1st, 2019 at 01:42 pm
Well, it’s been a whole 10 years since we’ve seen the original Zombieland crew of Jesse Eisenberg’s Columbus, Woody Harrelson’s Tallahassee, Emma Stone’s Wichita and Abigail Breslin’s Little Rock. 2009’s Zombieland was a fun post-apocalyptic road trip film with plenty of mileage left in it. Barring 2004’s Shaun of the Dead, there weren’t many zombie comedy films out there. Well, many great ones at least. Therefore, it was a fresh comedic take on the subject matter with plenty of visual flair, snappy dialogue and laudable performances that made it a critical and commercial darling for the horror-comedy genre.
Fast forward a decade worth of failed franchise reboots and sequels later and we’re left with some tough questions on hand. Does Zombieland: Double Tap go the way of 2016’s Ghostbusters? Does it have anything new to offer, or is it simply a tired old rehash of the same stuff we saw from the first film? Well, it’s time to nut up or shut up as we take a look at Double Tap!
Let me first put your minds at ease by saying that everything you love about the first Zombieland is back. Eisenberg’s socially awkward charm as Columbus, Harrelson’s red-blooded American bravado and Emma Stone’s delicious snark are fairly well preserved. In the past, Abigail Breslin’s Little Rock was given the short end of the stick with her having little to no real character development in the first film.
This time, Double Tap tries to address this lack by centring the film around Rock’s quest for independence and identity. Therefore the setup of the film pretty much has the remaining trio chase after Little Rock as she hikes up with a painfully generic Gen-Zer by the name of Berkeley. They chase after her, antics ensue, they kill zombies and cue the cliche “we’re a family” schtick. If it sounds like I’m ragging on the film, I’m really not.
Double Tap is well aware of its schmaltzy sentiments and does its level best to keep them brief if not use them to set up for more laughs. Most of the time, it’s utilized for some genuinely funny moments. The slight issue I have with this is that these supposedly touching moments never quite land in the category of heartfelt authenticity nor do they fully give in to satire. It feels like the writers felt like they needed to include these emotional beats into the film to land the film some gravity or punch. Which to be honest wasn’t the first film’s strength and isn’t so hot here either. Where the film does shine is when it’s at uttermost silliest and goriest. The good stuff.
Newcomer Zoey Deutch as the generic dumb blonde, Madison is the highlight of the film. Far from being a soulless bimbo, Deutch’s Asperger-like lines and enduring naivete is an endless source of joy in the film. I was concerned at first that they would play her out to be an annoying chatterbox or moronic clutz but most of the source of her humour comes from her ridiculous onlook of the world. It gets even better when she becomes the focal point in which Tallahassee’s blunt jabs and Wichita’s cutting lines shine through. I was looking forward to every moment the crew spent inside that shitty minivan, expecting some great dialogue. That being said, some of the humour in Double Tap can feel a bit mid-2000’s if you catch my drift.
The film does spend a lot of spend taking jabs at Gen-Z culture, depicting them as naive, opportunistic if not plain stupid. Some of it works like with Madison and other times it feels dated if not slightly mean-spirited. Don’t get me wrong, who doesn’t love the occasional intergenerational condescension but it does devolve into redundancy after a while. It’s like that cool uncle you used to hang out with in the past prattling on about how soft this new generation is and how everything’s on a tablet these days.
It’s not all jokes about modernity though. The film does lean into metatextual comedy with Tallahassee and Columbus running into doppelgangers of themselves halfway through the film which does lead to some pretty chuckle-worthy bits between the four of them. I totally could imagine Silicon Valley’s Thomas Middlemitch taking over Eisenberg’s place in an alternate world. It ultimately culminates with an awesome one-shot raucous inside of an Elvis-themed motel.
Speaking of action, Double Tap ratchets up the fun, kinetic shootouts and messy melees of the original film but this time with far more smarts. For example, there’s a scene in which Columbus is lifted up into a high place so he can point out possible points of attack as Tallahassee and Wichita shoot. Most of the time, the reasons why people die in zombie films are due to being blindsided by incoming munchers, or they fail to properly pick off the threats in front of them.
So to see tactics being employed by our heroes is a nice little diegetic touch that makes their history with the world feel tangible and believable. The film does overindulge at times with its zombie murdering fetish when it comes to its “Zombie Kill of the Week” bits which disrupts the pacing and flow of the action at play.
Sadly, the film does falter in the final act in which the OG crew along with the help of some hippies have to fend off an incoming horde of zombies from attacking a tower. The carnival battle in the first film had a real sense of danger and grittiness to it with each member using whatever tools at their disposal to take down the undead. Here, however, the grand finale ends with the defenders essentially playing tower defence with traps and kill-boxes. Remember the tactics I mentioned earlier?
It works when there’s a level of participation and fear added to it but when the threat is almost removed from the party’s at risk, it falls flat. Arguably, there are a few instances of close calls with the OG crew nearly biting the dust but there’s always a neat deus ex machina that comes sweeping out of nowhere. Look, I’m not mad. It is what it is. It just feels cheap at times is what I’m saying.
Fans of the original Zombieland will have plenty to enjoy in Double Tap. Newcomers to the series will undoubtedly walk away, knowing they’ve seen a fairly well made, funny horror comedy film. Those coming into the film, expecting to see some true innovation this time around may walk away disappointed. While the film’s attempt at emotional resonance falls short and the plot’s nothing to shout about, Double Tap delivers on mostly solid action scenes, witty dialogue and great performances from the original cast and new additions as well.
So to answer the questions at the start: No, Double Tap does not profane the legacy of its predecessor with pointless reinvention. Director Ruben Fleischer is faithful to a fault. Does it offer anything new? Well, it does give us some neat new characters and clever new comedic bits. Beyond that, nothing else. While not quite Shaun of the Dead levels of great, Zombieland: Double Tap is not a bad way to kill an hour and a half of a day.
Zombieland: Double Tap is currently playing in Malaysian cinemas.