Ten years ago the world was introduced to one of the greatest horror comedy mashups of all time, “Zombieland”. Sort of the American answer to Britain’s “Shaun of the Dead”, “Zombieland” took the idea of a zombie apocalypse and added in some fun humor to lampoon the subgenre’s endless supply of clichés. After sitting in development hell for years the sequel, “Zombieland: Double Tap”, is finally here with Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenburg, Abigail Breslin and Emma Stone returning as Tallahassee, Columbus, Little Rock and Wichita respectively along with new additions like Rosario Dawson, Zoey Deutch, Luke Wilson, Avan Jogia and Thomas Middleditch. Set several years after the first movie (the trailers say ten but the film leaves it ambiguous) “Zombieland: Double Tap” continues the foursome’s survival through apocalypse-torn America, but how well does it live up to its predecessor and the years’ worth of anticipation from fans who have begged for this sequel to become a reality. Let’s find out. This is my review of “Zombieland: Double Tap”.
“Zombieland: Double Tap” arrives just as the zombie craze it helped spark has started to die off (no pun intended), but this sequel proves there’s still plenty left to enjoy from this overplayed subgenre. But don’t expect a whole lot of anything unique or groundbreaking from “Double Tap” however as this is a sequel made for the fans who demanded it for so long. “Double Tap” has more than its fair share of self-referential humor that is sure to have fans of the franchise delightfully entertained. That’s not to say “Double Tap” doesn’t bring anything new to the table, but its focus is less on exploring new ground for the zombie subgenre or the franchise and more geared towards recapturing the magic that made the original so beloved and it does that spectacularly.
One big element that makes “Double Tap” work well is the return of the four main cast members from the first film. Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenburg, Abigail Breslin and Emma Stone are all back for another go only after ten years all four have managed to earn Oscar nominations and Stone even won Best Actress so in the big picture returning to a film series like this feels below them on the surface. That’s what makes their continued investment and chemistry in this sequel so easy to appreciate. These are four great performers who feel like they’re having fun, letting loose and avoiding taking their jobs too seriously. What could have been an easy paycheck for them feels more like recess where they finally get to take a break and just enjoy the ride. But it’s not just the returning cast that helps sell this film. The new characters are pretty memorable as well. Rosario Dawson is a nice touch as badass zombie killer Navada who becomes Tallahassee’s love interest while Zoey Deutch is one of the best parts of this movie as the scene-stealing dumb blonde Madison. Add in fun, if brief, cameo appearances by the likes of Luke Wilson and Thomas Middleditch and even holdover Bill Murray (stick around for the credits folks) and you have a cast filled with new and old favorites all played by fun performers who FEEL like they’re enjoying themselves which, in turn, helps the audience feel invested as well.
Oddly enough “Zombieland: Double Tap’s” greatest weakness is also its greatest strength. The fact that this film leans so heavily on what made the first movie work can, and a lot of times does, make it feel like a rehashed sequel. Those who have no patience for such followups may find this movie to be unwarranted. It’s clearly derivative focusing more on replicating what made the first movie fun rather than trying to take the franchise in any solid new direction, but what’s great about this sequel is it’s still just as fun, if not more fun at times, than its predecessor because everything feels like its on a larger scale. With that said “Double Tap’s” dependence on what already worked versus trying something more inspired or different ends up serving as both it’s most glaring cop out and its most entertaining offering. I also found an appreciation for the film’s willingness to call back to the previous entry through in-jokes about even small moments in the first movie without feeling like a straight up advertisement for the original. If anything “Double Tap” is both a celebration of everything people have come to love from this small, but popular cult franchise.
That’s not to say that “Double Tap” doesn’t bring anything new at all to the table, it’s just the new features are few and far between and not all the new stuff lands well. On the plus side the use of long, unbroken shots makes for some fun action scenes and the introduction of different zombie species ups the threat to our heroes. The use of new backdrops and locations help to increase the scale of the world these characters inhabit which helps make “Double Tap” a bigger, louder, and frankly more consistently entertaining product than the first entry. On the downside the story works in a side plot involving a community where everyone is trying to live in peace without weapons run by members of the younger generation. While I give the film credit for being one of the few movies these days that understand that GENERATION Z AND MILLENIALS ARE DIFFERENT GENERATIONS its clear attempt at commentary towards the current up-and-coming generation’s endless quest for peace in a world of chaos falls flat and felt like an add on to force something unique into the mix to keep the movie from feeling like a complete retread and bring the film to borderline stoner comedy levels which felt like an odd shift for the series with little payoff. Other jokes like a not-so-subtle reference to the ridiculousness of Uber might grab a chuckle but they immediately make this movie feel dated while the original’s humor was a bit more timeless.
Although “Zombieland: Double Tap” depends way too much on what made the first film of the franchise enjoyable, it’s this movie’s ability to successfully recapture the first film’s magic that also makes it so much fun. One thing I will say is you have to like the original “Zombieland” to appreciate what this sequel has to offer. If you did enjoy the first film this sequel gives you everything you’ve been waiting for, and a few fun surprises even if it doesn’t offer a whole lot of anything new to appreciate. Even as a retread sequel “Double Tap” gets the job done and gives fans everything they deserved from their ten year wait. It rides the line between being too derivative and just original enough to stand on its own making it a repetitive, but very satisfying continuation of the series. It’s evidence that sometimes playing it safe can have its perks and results in a fun continuation of a franchise in the right hands…lets just not make a habit of it. With that I say “Double Tap” is a perfectly serviceable sequel that feels long overdue.