The original gang of snarky zombie slayers have returned ten years later to take on a new breed of the undead in “Zombieland: Double Tap,” a fun but unnecessary sequel starring Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin.
Also returning for this silly but satisfying sequel is director Ruben Fleischer, who made his directing debut with “Zombieland” and has gone on to helm such high-profile projects as 2013’s “Gangster Squad” and last year’s “Venom” but has never quite been able to recapture the brilliance of the original. And while this playfully violent return to his horror comedy origins certainly has its share of fleeting pleasures, the formulaic screenplay by Dave Callaham, Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick is content delivering a predictable storyline that too often mirrors the action beats of the original. Thankfully, with the help of Fleischer’s enthusiastic direction, there is enough crude dialogue, enjoyably deranged action sequences, and zombie-killing thrills to satisfy the original’s bloodthirsty fan base. The addition of some comically gifted newcomers to the supporting cast, most notably Zoey Deutch and Thomas Middleditch (“Silicon Valley”), should help this diluted but entertaining second installment find an audience during the scary season.
Still set in the same post-apocalyptic America as last time, “Zombieland: Double Tap” finds our merry band of city-named misfits – Columbus (Eisenberg), Tallahassee (Harrelson), Wichita (Stone), and Little Rock (Breslin) – living together in the White House. The unlikely romance between Columbus and Wichita has now entered that more complicated realm of the relationship, with Columbus wanting to settle down and Wichita thinking she’s better suited to the loner life. Meanwhile, Tallahassee has taken on the role of adopted father to the angst-ridden Little Rock (Breslin), who dreams of leaving the nest and meeting people her own age.
Leaving Columbus and Tallahassee behind, Wichita and Little Rock decide to hit the road in search of greener pastures, but their journey is short-lived, as Little Rock opts to bail on Wichita in favor of running off with a hippie named Berkeley. When Wichita returns and informs the others of Little Rock’s abandonment, the group decides the family must remain as one, and so they venture out into Zombieland in search of the runaway. As they track down Little Rock to a hippie oasis called Babylon where she and Berkeley have taken up residence along with the other hacky sackers, their journey is complicated by a killer breed of zombies called the T-800s, and a ditz named Madison (Zoey Deutch) who takes a liking to Columbus, much to Wichita’s chagrin.
Never steering far from the tone or structure of the original, the screenplay from screenwriters Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick and Dave Callaham offers some good bits of dialogue, some mayhem-infused action sequences, and a couple appealing new characters that stand out enough in their own right to help justify the nostalgic trip into familiar territory. Also like the original, Ruben Fleischer injects the proceedings with his amusingly hyper-stylized approach, which adds considerably to the franchise’s playful tone, even if at times it is used to excess. Helping achieve the director’s unique vision is the impressive camerawork of Chung-hoon Chung, the frenetic score by David Sardy, and the ace production design of Martin Whist.
As for the acting, the cast of “Zombieland” really went a long way in bringing out the brilliance of the premise, and while their work here in “Double Tap” is perhaps a little more phoned-in than last time, they still display great chemistry as before and share some great comedic moments, with the exchanges between Woody Harrelson and Jesse Eisenberg standing out the most. As for the new additions to the cast, while her ditzy character could have come across as unbearably annoying, Zoey Deutch so fully commits to the dumb blonde routine that she somehow manages to steal almost every scene she’s in. Luke Wilson and ThomasMiddleditch also have a memorable cameo as a pair of Columbus and Tallahassee dopplegangers, while Rosario Dawson is a welcome presence as the manager of an Elvis-themed motel they stop at on the way to Graceland.
“Zombieland: Double Tap” may not be as enjoyable the second time around, or even all that necessary, but it’s an entertaining horror comedy that should please the fan base.
By Lucas Mirabella
Running Time: 99 minutes
Rated R for bloody violence, language throughout, some drug and sexual content.