Zombieland: Double Tap Review
Ten years on from director Ruben Fleischer’s Zombieland and not too much has changed. We’re still just as obsessed with the living dead as we’ve ever been, and while the faces are a little fuller, the wrinkles more noticeable and a couple of Oscar noms are tucked away safely in the bag, it doesn’t feel as if the stars of Zombieland 2: Double Tap have been away that long.
Since striking gold with his silly meta zombie flick, Fleischer has been stuck in a time warp ever since, struggling to recreate the winning formula that made his debut ten years ago so much fun at the time. Films like Gangster Squad and Venom lay testament to that. The first Zombieland was a goofy twist on a well-worn sub-genre, and while its energy has worn thin over the years, the sequel is likely to become even more forgettable in a much shorter space of time.
The ever neurotic Columbus (Jessie Eisenberg) welcomes us back to their land of the living dead, now in a relationship with Wichita (Emma Stone), while Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) acts as the surrogate father to her sister, Little Rock (Abigail Breslin), who isn’t best pleased about it all. They’ve survived by categorising the zombies roaming the streets into three categories - information that offers little except to later set up the introduction of a new, evolved strain of zombie (nicknamed T-800s by Columbus) that doesn’t die so easily.
After gunning their way into a vacant White House, they settle into a traditional family dynamic until, just like the old days, the two sisters up sticks and hit the road. Like much of the plot it’s a moment that doesn’t make any sense and the episodic Double Tap generally follows a similar pattern to its predecessor (including the ending). A slight difference is that Little Rock splits from Wichita, who returns to ask for help in finding her little sister.
Fleischer sticks to the old adage of serving up the same formula that worked before - with Deadpool scriptwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick returning to dole out gags that probably wouldn’t have induced a giggle the first time round either. There’s plenty of attempts at humour, but hardly any of it lands with conviction and with a cast as experienced and watchable as this ensemble should be, you have to wonder what they’d make of it all if they ever sit down to watch it back. There may even be some political commentary buried in here - but if that's the case, it doesn't land much of a blow.
Along the way there are some new faces thrown into the mix. Zoey Deutch’s air-headed blonde Madison is seemingly plucked from Clueless and chucked into the group, initially raising a smile or two before becoming a one-note joke that quickly grates. Maybe it would’ve worked in 2009? Who knows, but it certainly doesn't here. The ever-reliable Rosario Dawson briefly turns up, although she isn’t given much to work with, and similar to Deutch, Luke Wilson and Thomas Middleditch’s characters show promise until the bit is hammered into the ground.
On the plus side some fun is had with the horror elements and a mid-film fight sequence features some fluid camera movement that elevates the action. Harrelson and Eisenberg are still good together - even though the script is so lacklustre - while Stone has developed into such a fine comedic actress that she is deserving of so much better than this. The door is left open for a third film to crawl out of its grave in another ten years - let's just hope they know when to put it out of its misery.
Zombieland: Double Tap opens nationwide in UK cinemas on October 18.
Zombieland: Double Tap (2019)
Dir: Ruben Fleischer | Cast: Bill Murray, Emma Stone, Rosario Dawson, Zoey Deutch | Writers: Dave Callaham (screenplay), Paul Wernick (screenplay), Rhett Reese (screenplay)