At the very beginning of Zombieland: Double Tap, Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) tells the audience, “You have a lot of choices when it comes to zombie entertainment, so thank you for picking us.” This wasn’t exactly true ten years ago when the first Zombieland came out. That was before World War Z, the one good season of Walking Dead, and countless zombie-killing video games. Times certainly have changed since Zombieland came out, but with the exception of trying to make everything bigger and better in Zombieland: Double Tap, things have mostly stayed the same, for better and for worse.
The crew from the original Zombieland are now living in the White House – why not, right? – wrecking up the place and posting Borat posters in the Lincoln bedroom. Columbus and Wichita (Emma Stone) have continued to date, but things are starting to get stale. Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) is mostly content messing around with guns and cars, but he still hopes for someone of his own. Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) just wants someone her own age that she can confide in. When Columbus tries to get out of the rut with Wichita by proposing (with the Hope diamond, no less), Wichita and Little Rock take off, and soon after, Little Rock has run off on her own. With no one else to help her search for her sister Little Rock, Wichita returns to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to enlist aid from her old group.
One of the strengths of Zombieland was just how surprisingly great this group of completely different characters were when put together. By breaking up that group, the dynamics just aren’t quite as good as they once were. The combination of Eisenberg and Harrelson is still a blast, but with most of the story focusing on Columbus and Wichita’s relationship, there’s not much for Tallahassee to do, other than complain about what kind of car they drive around.
Filling in the gap of Little Rock is a revolving group of new characters, most of whom don’t hold their own. Little Rock has run away with, Berkeley (Avan Jogia), a hippie her age that plays acoustic guitar, loves weed and is anti-violence. Basically, every hippie joke you’ve ever heard gets used with this character. The same is true of Columbus’ post-Wichita fling, Madison (Zoey Deutch), a dumb blonde stereotype who literally lives at the mall. Again, every joke you’ve heard about this type of character gets presented throughout the film, and it’s a shame Deutch isn’t given something with more substance than this.
This isn’t true of all the new characters though. Rosario Dawson’s Nevada is a perfect match for Tallahassee, and a pair of Tallahassee-Columbus lookalikes, played by Luke Wilson and Thomas Middleditch is a bit of perfect casting.
If Zombieland was about 75 percent comedy, 25 percent action, Zombieland: Double Tap has made these percentages closer to 50/50. Director Ruben Fleischer has improved his action prowess quite a bit, especially in a one-shot zombie attack in Graceland, or in an ending that is almost like the Dead Rising video game come to life.
As fun as Zombieland: Double Tap can have in enjoying the little things, the film also feels like it’s trying to just one-up the original at every step. Instead of the “Zombie Kill of the Week,” we now get the “Zombie Kill of the Year,” and Columbus’ list of rules to survive the zombie apocalypse has only grown longer. Even the film’s structure is oddly similar to the original, right down to a denouement that occurs in a massive structure full of zombies. Even the mid and end credit gag – the best part of the film – is a direct callback to Zombieland’s biggest joke.
It might be nit-picky to point out a lack of realism in a zombie comedy, but for a film that makes the entire country the character’s playground, it’s nonsense just how often the main cast runs into the same characters over and over, and can easily find people and locations without any information whatsoever.
Yet even with the world overcome with zombie entertainment options, Zombieland: Double Tap is still a solid entertainment. This group of characters makes up for a lot of Double Tap’s flaws and there’s plenty of sick pleasure in watching the destruction of countless zombies. Zombieland might not be as fresh as it once was, but it’s still got enough (delicious) brains to keep this series going in a solid direction.