Zombieland Double Tap movie review: Brainless but brilliant follow-up to zombie cult classic
Zombieland: Double Tap
Director - Ruben Fleischer
Cast - Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin, Avan Jogia, Zoey Deutch, Rosario Dawson, Luke Wilson
The experience of watching Zombieland: Double Tap is a lot like being stuffed inside a time machine and being sent back to a very specific point in our recent history, both cinematically and culturally. A decade ago, when the first film was released, zombies were the flavour of the week; R-rated comedies were still a financially feasible option for movie studios and audiences were less touchy about certain things. For instance, I wonder how Double Tap’s iffy right-wing streak will go down with modern viewers. At one point, in fact, a character even yells out, “Thank God for the rednecks!”
The world has changed significantly since 2009. Back then, Emma Stone had bangs (and zero Academy Awards); Jesse Eisenberg was neither a DC villain nor an Oscar nominee; and Ruben Fleischer hadn’t directed a single feature film, let alone an $850 million superhero smash.
Watch the Zombieland: Double Tap trailer here
Part of the reason why it took so long to get Double Tap made, despite the first movie having developed a loyal cult following, was because everyone’s stars have risen considerably over the years. Which suggests, slightly heart-warmingly, that this film exists only because they were all very passionate to make it, and not because there was a lot of money to be made.
Zombieland 2, like the original, is blessed with a run-time so short, that it barely allows for careful consideration of its flaws. At 90 minutes long, the film feels at once breathless, yet oddly overstuffed. Because there’s so little breathing room — or, really, any patience for silences — the jokes are hurled at you even before a single scene has been shown. Without giving anything away, you might want to arrive on time for your screening, and experience for yourself the hidden talents of the Columbia Pictures torch lady.
A few years have passed since the events of the first film, we’re told, without getting into specifics. Against their better judgments, our four heroes — Tallahassee, Columbus, Wichita and Little Rock — have found the last thing they’d have expected during the end times -- a family. But when the angsty Little Rock flies the coop in search of other survivors closer to her own age, the rest of the group must go on an epic road trip to rescue her from the clutches of — and here’s another example of the film’s mean-spirited conservatism — Gandhi-quoting, non-violent vegans who’ve built a commune for themselves called Babylon.
To gain entry inside the commune, one is forced to surrender their firearms, which are then melted down and moulded into little peace signs designed to be worn around one’s neck. In one scene, the pacifists sit around a fire and literally sing Kumbaya. To the gun-toting, Twinkie-loving Tallahassee, the idea of Little Rock being brainwashed by hippies is almost like losing her to human traffickers. Not only has someone he loves dearly been taken away, his principles have been attacked..
A lot of the humour in the original film came from Jesse Eisenberg and Woody Harrelson’s odd-couple energy. There’s something funny about a hotheaded redneck and a neurotic Woody Allen type being forced to lean on each other to survive a zombie apocalypse. Zombieland 2 adds a new dynamic to their relationship, and introduces a host of colourful new characters led by the scene-stealing Zoey Deutch.
Reese and Wernick, who went on to write the two Deadpool films after the first Zombieland, bring a lot of that famous, self-referential humour to Double Tap. Jokes are made not only about the undeniable pop-cultural obsolescence of zombies, but also at the film’s own expense — we all know it has arrived probably four years past its expiry date.
Fleischer also retains the flashy visual gags that made the original such a refreshing entry in the crowded subgenre. No one, not even the Central Board of Film Certification, it seems, could resist being swept away by the sight of one of Columbus’ zombie survival rules pasted in big, bold letters. A fight for screen space unfolds every time someone smokes a doobie, and the CBFC feels compelled to warn you about it with title font as large and distracting as one of those rules. It’s a double learning experience.
But despite its entertainment (and educational) value, Zombieland: Double Tap is strictly for fans. It helps, however, that its cult of followers, like the undead, is only increasing.
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