In Brief: Zombieland Double Tap has one tap too many.
Double tap means you shoot a zombie twice to make sure it is really dead. This is just one of many rules the characters abide by in the sequel to 2009’s Zombieland, the laugh-your-butt-off — and in the opinion of many (including me) — funniest and best zombie flick of them all.
While a zombie apocalypse and the living dead killing and eating the living seems more real to us these days than it did when George Romero gave us Night of the Living Dead in 1968, it’s still not — of course — a believable concept. Humor has always helped horror and adding it to the premise gives a zombie apocalypse credibility.
Back to the rules. When they’re discussed or announced — usually by Jesse Eisenberg’s Columbus — words highlighting them pop up on-screen in a dozen different ways. They’re often used as either punch lines or a set up for this comic bit or that.
Zombieland Double Tap starts with what has happened to our crazy cast of characters since the original film. The summing up of those events is cleverly written and filmed. Tallahassee, Columbus, Wichita and Little Rock now live in the White House. That’s the White House as in where the nation’s president lives.
The place is a bit run down now but it’s still nice digs.
Zombies have evolved. Some have developed different and more dangerous characteristics and skills. The four main characters have found ways to survive and with great stuff available for free, they do Christmas a lot. It just one of the distractions to kill time when they’re not killing zombies.
Woody Harrelson’s Tallahassee remains super cynical, a bit bossy, fiery tempered and a little impulsive. The roles of Columbus and Wichita are reprised by Eisenberg and Emma Stone. They’re in love. It, too, has challenges. She has alpha-male characteristics and he still, in his endearing but shambling, rambling way, overanalyzes everything. Abigail Breslin’s Little Rock is bored with everything and tired of Tallahassee constantly bossing her around. She’s desperate to be with people her own age and wants to leave the nest.
Columbus and Wichita hit a wall and in the middle of the night she decide to leave and head for parts unknown with Little Rock. That brings new characters into the fold. One is a pacifist guitar playing hippie. He’s headed for a non-weaponized sanctuary in California.
Things happen and Wichita returns to the White House where she finds Tallahassee and Columbus have rescued Madison. She’s another of the new characters and has been hiding in a freezer since the zombie disaster began. Things happen to force the group to leave the White House and it becomes the sequel’s focal point.
Back to Madison. She is — to put it nicely — pretty much an airhead. A funny one, too. Madison is played by Zoey Deutch (Dirty Grandpa, The Disaster Artist, Why Him?). Deutch perfectly tosses out one lamebrain line after another. She’s very, very funny.
Too bad Double Tap isn’t.
Part of why has to do with the hippie and the plot’s purpose. Plus, other than laugh-out-loud Madison the movie lacks the devil-may-care spontaneity of the first film. It feels like Harrelson, Eisenberg, Stone and Breslin are acting like they think their characters should be rather than embracing and becoming them as they did in the first film.
The new to the cast actors are fresh and — going back to what’s wrong with the movie — much more spontaneous.
That Zombieland Double Tap doesn’t rise from the dead like its hordes of zombies is a total surprise. The story and script are done by four very good and quite talented writers. Co-writer and director Ruben Fleischer wrote the original Zombieland with Rhett Reese who also helped write the two Deadpool movies. They teamed with Paul Wernick who assisted in the penning of the Deadpool movies and with Dave Callahan. He’s responsible for the three The Expendables movies.
They do some things right and parts of Zombieland Double Tap — like the first movie — are gut-busting funny. The Bill Murray, Luke Wilson, Rosario Dawson and Thomas Middleditch cameos are fun. So are some of the other bits.
However, talented though they may be, the four writers often don’t seem to be on the same page. They introduce some very funny and fun bits relating to the first movie and then inexplicably drop them. The new routines sometimes feel recycled, forced and formula.
Forced that wins out, and is ultimately, very disappointingly. The comedy in Zombieland Double Tap seems just one tap too many. However, I love the characters and the premise enough to recommend the movie — but barely.
Director: Ruben Fleischer
Stars: Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin, Zoey Deutch, Avan Jogia, Rosario Dawson, Luke Wilson, Thomas Middleditch, Bill Murray
Rated R for language and extreme violence. The first film is one of the funniest horror flicks ever. The sequel is not. It’s funny in spots but lacks that devil-may-care spontaneity of the original. Friday Flicks with Gary gives it a disappointing — but recommended — 3 on the 0 to 5 scale.
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Gary Wolcott has been reviewing movies on radio, television and newspaper since 1990. He believes — and this is an estimate only — that he’s seen something close to 10,000 movies in his lifetime. Gary is a lifelong fan of films and catches a couple of hundred movies a year. He believes movies ought to be seen on the big screen and not on the small screen in your living room or family room. While he loves movies, he also says reviewing film can be a real sacrifice and that he sees many movies so you don’t have to.
He is one of KXL 101.1 FM’s film critics and joined the news staff in 2014. Gary is also the film critic for Tri-Cities, Washington’s Tri-City Herald.