It has been a long ten years since the surprising success of the first Zombieland, now considered a cult classic zombie movie alongside such masterpieces like Shawn of the Dead (2004), and now director Ruben Fleischer and Sony Pictures finally decided to produce a sequel. I remember seeing this film with my friend when I just started college, we found its unique genre very cool … and it remains the case today. In 2009, the main actors in the distribution had not even experienced their moment of glory since they were pretty much unknowns. For Emma Stone, it was before her appearance in major Hollywood productions and her Oscar nomination for La La Land (2017). It was only in 2010 that The Social Network (2010) was released in theatres, so Jesse Eisenberg was still just known for being a teen movie actor. The notoriety of Abigail Breslin remained rather similar, while Woody Harrelson is now a well-known talented actor who never seems to lack work. On the director’s side, Ruben Fleischer has also made a name for himself in Hollywood by directing the recent big-budget superhero movie Venom. Everyone wins in talent, that’s for sure!
So, considering the iconic elements of the first movie and all the gags regarding Columbus’ list of rules for surviving Z-Land, the Tallahassee one-liners and the creative ways to kill zombies, is this sequel valid? Overall, I would say it’s a nice effort, but sometimes it’s a bit too much, losing some of its old grace.
After the events of the first Zombieland, where we discover a post-apocalyptic contemporary world where humans are taken out one by one in a huge invasion of zombies, the survivors of the epidemic, Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson, one of his greatest roles), Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin), are still standing together, forming a small family of very effective mercenaries. Having reached Washington DC, they take possession of the White House, which is now uninhabited and in rubble. Enjoying small family moments without having to constantly defend their territory against zombies, all four try to live their lives normally … except for Little Rock who is bored and would like to spend time with young people of her age. She will decide to run away and meet a young musician who will lead her to a hippie landmark similar to a huge re-invented Woodstock where all young survivors are gathered. The other three will go out looking for her, while meeting some funny characters on their way, including a Barbie doll with an IQ that leaves something to be desired (Zoey Deutch), a hotel owner (Rosario Dawson) and many more. Of course, like a groupie, Tallahassee will want to make a little stop on the road to satisfy his need for nostalgia with a quick visit to Elvis Presley’s house in Memphis. On their way, they will also discover a new breed of fast and truly undying zombies who they like to call T-800s (in reference to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator who never dies) – nice reference!
In honour of the recipe of the first film, Zombieland: Double Tap is without a doubt a pastiche of the original, but where gags, one-liners and zombie massacres go up a notch to make the whole thing even more exciting. We can notice it immediately during the studios’ logo roll in fact! Normally, I would say this is an ingenious idea when we have a successful recipe in hand, but as we often say, too much is less. The gags are written to be funnier and come back more frequently during the film, the confrontations with the zombies (very few of those) are more spectacular and secondary characters are added to the mix as a second layer of humour. Personally, even though I giggled many times, the charm of the first movie has dissipated much more than we think. Of course, we do not see such a film for its cinematography, but I thought there was too much use of CGI here, unlike the practical effects of the first film. The first movie was frozen yogourt, let’s just say the sequel is more of a popsicle.
The weakest element of this sequel is actually the funniest element at the very beginning, quickly losing its authenticity: the character of Madison (Zoey Deutch). Her contagious imbecility and small high-pitched voice are funny at times, but seeing her coming back on many, many occasions just becomes foolish. There is also a supposedly funny scene including actors Luke Wilson and Thomas Middleditch, but it never reaches the intended destination in terms of humour. On the other hand, the ‘Hail Mary’ definitely comes from Woody Harrelson, who brings Tallahassee to new heights in terms of gags, but also on a personal level, seeing him develop a beautiful fatherly relationship with Little Rock and a new love interest with a fan of Elvis that he meets on the road. He is clearly, once again, the best character in Zombieland! You will never see a Chevy minivan the same way again, which is by far the best gag of the entire film.
On a positive note, there are many political winks to today’s culture that are very well-placed, including some a few jokes on vegan people, the protection of the environment and wildlife, sustainable development … and even the endless fight between Uber and the taxi industry! For a post-apocalyptic comedy, the tone is very accurate and most welcome. Hard to believe, maybe it’s even a hot topic for film buffs, but Zombieland: Double Tap could even have a political anti-gun speech (no kidding, believe me).
For all lovers of the first Zombieland, or even for newcomers, the sequel will suit you without too much problem. This is a very entertaining film, you will laugh easily and you will be delighted to find these characters (at least Tallahassee and Columbus, which are more memorable than the others in my opinion). Maybe a third and final film could be possible to close the loop and make a trilogy. The second part is more of a comedy than an action-comedy, as the director minimized the fighting against zombies and gunshots, which is disappointing in my opinion. All in all, Double Tap is a deserved continuation of the first one, still surfing on the same excellent gags, while being a little less memorable. That being said, the film knows very well that it should not be taken seriously, so that’s what counts.
As Woody Harrelson likes to say so often: “Time to nut up or shut up”.
Oh … and stay for the credits, a little surprise awaits you!
My final grade: 7/10