Another one of this week’s unnecessary sequels is Zombieland: Double Tap, a hit-or-miss follow-up to the perfectly good 2009 comedy that brings back the original cast of post-zombie-apocalypse survivors just to put them through the same paces as last time. If the dizzying amount of change the world has experienced in the last 10 years gives you anxiety, don’t worry — everything’s still the same in Zombieland.
Narrated again by Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), the Jesse Eisenberg-like worrywart with a list of scrupulously followed survival rules, the sequel finds him and his compatriots — rootin’ tootin’ Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), situational girlfriend Wichita (Emma Stone), and her sister Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) — living relatively safe and sound in the White House. (The outbreak happened in 2009, so Obama is the last president America ever had, just like in real life.) Wichita, whose concern last time was that she didn’t want to get too attached to anyone, is concerned now about being too attached to Columbus. Little Rock, who was 12 before, is not 12 anymore, and she’s horny. So the gals strike out on their own to seek new adventures.
This leads Columbus (now depressed) and Tallahassee to meet the sequel’s best asset: Madison (Zoey Deutch), an airhead they find living in a mall whose cluelessness is matched only by her enthusiasm. She’s a lovable dummy who loves life even under these circumstances, and Deutch, using a spot-on lazy-mouth speaking voice, gives a truly hilarious performance that brightens every scene she’s in. Madison takes a shine to Columbus, which complicates things when Wichita inevitably reenters the picture to seek help in finding Little Rock, who has run off with a guitar-strumming, peace-loving hippie named Berkeley (Avan Jogia).
The ensuing road trip leads our new foursome first to Graceland, where they meet a badass named Nevada (Rosario Dawson) — who pronounces it “Nev-aw-da,” which means she’s not really from there — as well as the sequel’s second-best addition: Albuquerque (Luke Wilson) and Flagstaff (Thomas Middleditch), who are analogues of Tallahassee and Columbus. Albuquerque and Tallahassee are rivals for Nevada’s affection, but twin nerds Flagstaff and Columbus find much to admire in each other’s rules and commandments. (“How nice that there are two of you now,” Wichita deadpans.) Unfortunately, the movie doesn’t know what to do with these two after it introduces them.
Ruben Fleischer returns as director, with another screenplay by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (plus third writer Dave Callaham), and while there are solid laughs sprinkled throughout, too much of the bantering and bickering has a sitcom vibe to it — caustic and snarky but not necessarily funny. Tallahassee’s tantrums about having to drive an uncool minivan are the worst example of this, like a TV dad (I’m thinking Tim Allen) who’s been given license to swear.
And the zombies? Oh, right, there are zombies. They’ve evolved a little, including a new strain that’s harder to kill, and Fleischer is pleased to present as much CGI blood and gore as the budget will allow. But there’s really only one good zombie-related sequence, set at a commune of survivors where guns are eschewed, forcing them to be more creative.
Finally, there’s a scene during the closing credits that was meant to make fans happy but only annoyed this fan. It’s completely gratuitous, disconnected from the rest of the film, and not particularly funny. The filmmakers desperately wanted to appease us by calling back to the first movie, yet they chose to do it in the easiest, laziest, most patronizing way possible. Zoey Deutch bumped the film up a grade, but this scene cancels it out. Sorry, but that’s how it is. You’re not the only one with rules, Columbus.