Zombieland: Double Tap

Release: Friday, October 18, 2019

→On Demand

Written by: Rhett Reese; Paul Wernick; Dave Callaham

Directed by: Ruben Fleischer

I’m not much of a zombie guy but I have a lot of time for Zombieland. The original, now over a decade old, was this fun little hang-out movie set at the end of the world, a nice, self-contained story that took the zombie threat about as seriously as any movie needs to in my opinion. Its energy was propelled by banter and pop culture references almost in equal measure, as a group of strangers tried to survive a particularly bad outbreak of a disease that turned cows mad and people into, well, ravenous bloodthirsty creatures.

The last time we saw the old crew, they — the rule-making Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), Twinkie-loving tough-guy Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) and the clever and resourceful sisters Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) — were leaving the scene of a major zombie beat-down at an amusement park somewhere in California. It seemed to me and I think to pretty much everybody that this was a natural end to their story. Clearly director Ruben Fleischer didn’t have enough closure and in 2019 he dropped the long-not-awaited sequel, hoping to recapture at least some of the magic from the first.

As it turns out, he was on to something.

When it comes to style, Zombieland: Double Tap — the name is inspired by Rule #2 in Columbus’ handy little survival guide — definitely has it. That’s because it is pretty much the same movie, now with Homers, Hawkings and T-800s (suborders of zombie that are hilariously dumb, horrifyingly intelligent and near-impossible to kill, respectively) thrown in the mix. The flashy presentation is a carbon copy, right down to certain camera angles and motifs — scenes of Woody Harrelson briefly losing it in a fit of rage and of gnarly zombie kills choreographed sublimely to the blasting guitars of Metallica . . . oh, and the neat little thing the editors do with the on-screen text, integrating words into the environment in some really creative ways.

It’s the way Fleischer justifies all the time in between that makes Double Tap a surprisingly substantive and sentimental update. It helps to have your entire original cast return and to have the caliber actors who can easily slip back into character like no time has passed and yet still convey that it has. This is a sequel that not only benefits from consistency, but a natural sense of evolution. While most of them don’t look like they’ve aged (and Eisenberg is almost comically eternally boyish), Abigail Breslin was a mere 12 years old at the time Zombieland was filmed. The young actor has done the most growing up and shrewdly Fleischer and his writing team offer the sequel as a coming-of-age story where, effectively, every A-lister in the movie defers to her arc, even Eisenberg and Stone, whose Columbus and Wichita are dealing with their own little fall-out after the former proposes the one thing that scares the latter more than any zombie — marriage.

Through a combination of cabin fever and having tired of Tallahassee’s overly protective quasi-parenting, Little Rock desperately seeks independence, eventually crossing paths with a pacifist named Berkeley (Avan Jogia) who whisks her away to this zombie-free utopia called Babylon where guns and troublemakers are the only things unwelcome. The resulting movie becomes another cross-country adventure that, along with culturing the viewer in the diaspora of post-apocalyptic American landmarks, introduces some solid new supporting characters en route to reuniting with Little Rock.

Thomas Middleditch and Luke Wilson pop up briefly, mostly to get turned into zombies, but not before serving up a surprisingly effective and protracted doppelgänger gag, while Rosario Dawson is in as Nevada, who is pitched not just as an obvious savior for Harrelson’s lonely soul but also his intellectual/emotional equal — one of my out-and-out favorite scenes in either movie is the hostile manner in which they first meet near Graceland.

And we may have lost Bill Murray along the way, but Double Tap does counter-offer Zoey Deutch in what is easily the movie’s stand-out performance, playing this total space cadet named Madison who, relative to this narrative at least, comes from a shopping mall freezer and adds this whole other whacky dynamic to the mix. Instead of being an annoyance her dumb-blonde archetype is the movie’s revelation and I for one would recommend the movie on her contributions alone. Her Madison becomes a part of the crew’s growing pains and really inspires some good reactions from Emma Stone.

Anyone who has sat through a Zoolander 2 or a Dumb & Dumber To or — yikes! — an Independence Day: Resurgence knows not to trust the ten-year belated sequel. In fact it almost feels like Double Tap breaks the rules by actually being good, that oh so rare justified sequel that delivers both on world-expansion and character growth while never abandoning the breezy narrative formula that made the original a hit. With a cast this good, it’s easy to keep the good times rolling even when the world is falling apart around you.

I know. I know it’s a spoiler. But it’s just too good not to share.

Recommendation: I’m having serious debates with myself over which movie is better. I’m actually leaning toward the sequel. Think about it. A sequel has to do something extra just to draw even with, be as good as, its predecessor. A good original movie debuts with no standard set against it. Double Tap has to overcome familiarity and it does that really well by introducing some quality new characters and perhaps most importantly by keeping the tone light. There’s a version of these movies that could be really dark, like The Road dark; remembering back to Columbus’ narration in the original about how everyone has been made an orphan in the wake of the virus. But these are stoner comedies of equal value. The fact Double Tap outgrossed its predecessor might be the strongest testament to that.

Rated: R

Running Time: 99 mins.

Quoted: “There I was, hiding in the woods, when I thought, ‘I used to live in a freezer, so why not a freezer on wheels?”

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: IMP Awards; IMDb 

13 thoughts on “Zombieland: Double Tap

  1. I entered and lightning did not strike, but you can still shoo me away. I loved the original Zombieland–all of the actors just played so well off each other. I was happy to read your review that nothing has been lost there even a decade later. Bill Murray actually makes a return? I am thrilled. Good review. I’m looking forward to seeing the movie.

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    • I’m thrilled you’ve followed along with my blog, thank you! Honestly it’s probably the most interesting way I’ve gotten a follower. I have a habit of making sarcastic comments, and my sense of humor is pretty strange! I appreciate your support, hope you enjoy the sequel — everything you like about the first you’ll probably find here too.

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  2. I saw this recently without expecting much, kinda wished this would’ve come out much sooner. Surprisingly, it was really enjoyable. Deutch’s character was hilarious. Plus, the Bill Murray bonus scene was perfect! 😉

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    • Yeah basically any scene with Deutch I found to be some of my favorites of either movie. And of course, Bill Murray had to come back (if nothing else to make sure Zombieland 2 is a mirror image of 1).

      I think the time gap was actually justified here with the focus on Abigail Breslin’s character. I’m not sure if they could have gone the route they did if the movie came out like only 5 years after the first. She’s done a lot of growing up in 10 years so that was interesting to see play out for me. That said, IF there’s a third, let’s hope it’s not another 10 years 😀

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  3. Nice review my friend. For some reason I had a hard time getting into this one. I am with you on Deutch. I thought she was the funniest thing about the movie. Obnoxious, yea ok, but she cracked me up and when she wasn’t delivering funny lines she was setting up others for funny lines. She’s a plus for sure.

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    • I didn’t find her obnoxious per se, but certainly plays up the tropes of a Valley Girl airhead. To the degree where I definitely see people finding her obnoxious and not liking her. I thought it was kudos to the film for having her be this atypical survivor of a zombie outbreak.

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  4. Yeah looking around the net, I definitely seem like a downer when it comes to these movies. I really liked the first half hour of the first one, the rules and all that were great. But then half of it became a love story and I admit I kinda lost interest once it went down that road… it just felt like it lost momentum with that side plot, the tone of the movie changed totally. Did you feel that at all with the first one, or am I totally imagining that?

    I can’t talk about this one though, given I haven’t fuckin seen it haha, and if I ignore the fact that there is Metallica song in it (yeah i’m one of those people), I might like it.

    Also I think I am basing my opinion here on something I watched when I was 25 or so, ha I feel a bit stupid having had such a snap-judgement of a sequel. When I saw the trailer for this, I instantly heard ‘no’ in my head, and that was that. But (for the second time in two days =]) you’ve changed my perspective brother. I’m gonna give it a shot.

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    • I see where you’re coming from but I didn’t have the same experience. I thought the relationship dynamics were handled really well without being sappy or even really sentimental at all. Emma Stone and Jesse Eisenberg work well. I think Zombieland is a movie you need to be a fan of the cast in order for it to really work its charms.

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      • I love Woody and Jesse, the others I neither love or hate. I’m gonna give the sequel a spin when I’m in for something mindless – well, mindless compared to what I would normally watch

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          • I dunno that name tbh. I’ll look him up before I watch it. I just got home after playing basketball with some troubled young folk and they loved it, though I now realise just how awfully unfit I am!

            Cue the sofa: I’m gonna watch Harpoon and this. I’ll let ya know what I think mate!

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  5. Ahhhh I really need to get around to seeing this! Great review Tom. I loved the first and was really amped to see this sequel but just haven’t had the opportunity. Looks like I’ll need to rectify that ASAP.

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    • Ah! It’s so much fun!! I freaking love these characters, even Abigail Breslin’s! (Not a fan of hers, whoops.) But man oh man, Zoey Deutch just puts this over the top for me. I see her rubbing some people the wrong way but I adored her.

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