Maleficent: Mistress of Evil isn’t the only belated sequel hitting theaters this weekend. A whole 10 years after Zombieland began its journey to cult status, the same creative team returns for more zombie horror/comedy insanity with Zombieland: Double Tap. And while this new film doesn’t try at all to reinvent the wheel, it mostly retains the clever zaniness of its predecessor while bringing great new characters into the fold.
It has been a decade since a mysterious virus jump-started a zombie outbreak across the world. Zombies have evolved, and the humans have as well. Now, our ragtag group of survivors, Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), Wichita (Emma Stone), and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) have settled into their post-apocalyptic lifestyle.
Living comfortably in their newly claimed White House, the women of the makeshift family soon begin to feel suffocated by the over-attentiveness of Tallahassee and the love-struck clinginess of Columbus. After Columbus clumsily proposes to Wichita, she and her sister promptly hit the road in search of some privacy and freedom.
But when Little Rock runs off with a peace-loving, nonviolent hippie, Wichita’s protective instincts kick in and she returns to her former family. Fearing for her safety, the group takes another wild ride through the Midwest to talk some sense into Little Rock, find potential new love, and maybe kill some zombies along the way.
Zombieland: Double Tap reunites the writing team of Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (Zombieland, Deadpool), and new writer David Callaham, with director Ruben Fleischer, and the tone and style that they set with the first film remains wholly intact here, if not feeling quite as fresh. The family dynamic between the four principal characters is every bit as enjoyable as it was 10 years ago. It feels like catching up with your favorite relatives after they spent a few years away, with all the familial bickering and winning chemistry that comes with it. And the actors ably slip right back into the shoes of their post-apocalyptic survivor counterparts.
Some of the jokes are extensions of gags from the first film, which can be hit or miss. The Zombie Kill of the Week has been updated to Zombie Kill of the Year, which leads to much more ambitious and amusingly over-the-top kills. On the other hand, Fleischer’s textual insertion of Columbus’s rules for surviving the zombie apocalypse feels more like a comedic crutch this time around, used far too often to be considered innovative or clever, anymore.
They do smartly save one of the best callback jokes for last, in a mid-credits sequence that playfully expands on one of the best gags from the first film. It’s a great note to go out on, so be sure to stay a few minutes.
What saves Zombieland: Double Tap from being completely beholden to the original’s comedic strengths is the new cast of characters. Rosario Dawson kicks some major zombie ass as Reno, a lone survivor living lavishly in an Elvis-themed motel. Luke Wilson and Thomas Middleditch also show up, playing very familiar types that set the stage for a whole slew of comedic setups and payoffs.
The real standout, though, is Zoey Deutch as the ditzy Madison, whose survival Tallahassee attributes to the fact that “zombies eat brains, and she don’t got any.” Dumb blonde jokes can feel extremely lazy in the wrong hands, but Deutch plays Madison so well that her line delivery makes even the easiest jokes hilarious.
Zombieland: Double Tap may not be as original or groundbreaking a sequel as its 10-year hiatus could’ve allowed for, but it is still a highly enjoyable family reunion with a likable cast of characters, both new and old. The plot can feel episodic, at times, and the film often relies too heavily on the strengths of its predecessor. But the new additions add enough fun dynamics to make Double Tap a worthy enough follow-up. This is the sequel to see this weekend, and just in time for Halloween.
Zombieland: Double Tap is rated R, and it hits theaters this weekend. All images courtesy of Sony Pictures.