Zombie movies are like any other movies... only a little deadly and smelly.
Ten Years Ago…
Basically the story is mostly the same for everyone when it comes to 2009’s Zombieland, they saw the flick and immediately fell in love with it. The film was released in a time where zombies were a major craze in cinema, Woody Harrelson’s role as Tallahassee was one of his most energized performances in years, there was a hilarious sense of humor with memorably fantastic lines, and the cast was lovable in their own misfit family dynamic. Who doesn’t love the movie? Hence why it became such an instant cult classic.
At the time, I remember being slightly late to the party as most of my friends experienced Zombieland in the theater as I missed out on the initial release and didn’t see the movie until it hit video a few months later by sheer ‘happen-stance’. However, I remember very vividly my journey in discovering Zombieland for the first time. The story I am about to tell will sound extremely random, just hang in there with me though. The year was 2010; my father and I had heard about some sort of signing going on in the city at a Blockbuster Video. Yes, when they were still alive and kicking. Anyways, the signing was being hosted by a couple of iconic comedic actors that me and my dad both shared a tremendous love for; Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong. Random, yes, I know. We decided, why not try getting in there and see them; we were both alone in the house with nothing to do anyhow. When nearing the Blockbuster, still several blocks away, we noticed a rather large group of people lined up to something. As we drove closer to our destination we realized exactly where this line was leading, Blockbuster. At first we thought that we should just turn around now since we figured there was no way we were getting in there unless we were to wait in this long ass line that would have taken the entirety of the day to move through. Even then, we may not even reach the doors by the time the duo was ready to pack up and go.
Seemingly hopeless, my dad begins our return back home. Before getting too far though, we see that there are two entrances into the shop; one designated for the signing and the other for regular customers. Simultaneously, me and my dad have a lightbulb turn on in our heads. Why not simply walk in as “regular customers”, snap a picture of Cheech and Chong from a distance, then make our escape? Here’s the thing though that makes that idea seem somewhat absurd… at the time of this adventure of ours, both me and my dad looked exactly like the demographic that Cheech and Chong appeased to. Long hippy/rocker hair with me wearing a tie dye shirt and my dad was a full on stoner, we couldn’t look more like fans if we tried. Somehow we made our way inside the fortress of Blockbuster, although not without the Blockbuster employees practically keeping surveillance on us the whole time. In order to not look too suspicious, we started looking at movies while every now and again I would use my flip phone (not joking) to snap pictures of Cheech and Chong at their table. Barely getting a single decent shot of either as their heads barely poked up beyond the movie stands and my paranoid shaky hand resulting in mostly blurry photos. Sadly, I don’t believe those pictures even exist anymore.
Moving on, in our attempts at being inconspicuous, my father and I came across a movie we were both looking forward to seeing, Zombieland. We brought it up to the register, made our purchase, took one last look at Cheech and Chong before leaving, returned home and watched Zombieland with the whole family together having a barrel of laughs. So, for me, Zombieland is a little more than just a fun action-comedy romp. It’s a memory, a good memory with my dad. We had a great day together that I will never forget and Zombieland is oddly a permanent part of that. I love the movie, I love that day me and my dad shared together, and I wish my dad would return from the dead as a flesh eating zombie so I could turn this article into a full circle. No, but seriously, Zombieland holds a little bit of a special place in my heart when I think about it.
Ten Years Later…
After several failed attempts at bringing this world back from the grave with proposed sequels and television shows, the fans are finally treated to an official sequel in the form of Zombieland: Double Tap. Was the decade long wait worth it? Does this new installment hold a candle to its predecessor or have we wasted our time with a total disappointment? As we all know, a good comedy sequel is damn near impossible to come by. Every now and again there may be one comedy sequel that shines a little bit, but almost never amounts to what the original achieves; Caddyshack II, Hangover Part II and III, Beverly Hills Cop III, Evan Almighty, Porky’s Revenge, Look Who’s Talking Too, Look Who’s Talking Now, Nutty Professor II: The Klumps, Son of the Mask, Weekend at Bernie’s II, Hot Tub Time Machine 2, any Revenge of the Nerds sequel (take your pick), Blues Brothers 2000, Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde… that last one hurt my head typing. Comedy sequels, more often than not, suck. Not always the case, but when it comes to a comedy that strikes lightning in a bottle the first time, doesn’t tend to strike again for the second go around.
Personally, I thought that Zombieland: Double Tap was a pleasant return to the world of Zombieland. Was it, by any means, a work of genius or quite as good as the original? No, I honestly can’t make that claim. There are some minor issues I had with a clunky screenplay occasionally. With that said, this was a fun ride back with our four lovable protagonists reprising their roles as the humorous makeshift family again. To an extent, this feels like the modern zombie comedy equivalent of RoboCop 2; maintains some good gory action and really funny dialog inside of a “less than stellar” follow-up narrative. A good time, but not necessarily great.
Several years have passed since we last saw our zombie killing, goofball gang as they have now grown a bit wiser and the world has grown a bit more dangerous. Zombies have become more evolved in hunting their prey, even more resilient to the normal means of execution. Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) is now a teenager who yearns for a companion her own age. When she finds exactly that, she and her new boyfriend, head off into the unknown without any hint of her whereabouts. It is up to Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), and Wichita (Emma Stone) to track down Little Rock before it’s too late.
Simple Premise Painted with Sloppy Lines
When it comes to describing the plot, it is extremely straightforward; Little Rock goes missing and it’s up to the gang to find her. Boom! Nothing too intricate with that description and lends itself well to many possibilities for the story to go. Maybe too many possibilities. As entertaining as the majority of this movie was, it’s hard not to criticize the fact that this goes down one too many avenues to keep the story completely straight. At first the movie is about the “family” finding refuge within the White House and how their company together has grown relatively uneasy. Then it is about how Wichita and Little Rock uproot themselves from Tallahassee and Columbus without much notice, to live on their own again. Then it’s about how Little Rock found a boy and went rogue, resulting in Wichita meeting back up with Tallahassee and Columbus, only to find that Columbus has gained himself a new girlfriend. Then it’s about the gang visiting an Elvis Presley museum near Graceland where they come across Rosario Dawson being a badass. After that they suddenly run into doppelgangers of themselves that are fairly quickly written out of the movie. Entering the last act, we are introduced to an entire hippy commune that holds out against the zombie apocalypse with no forms of violence or weapons. Supplying a climax where our heroes have to figure out a way to stay alive practically without any proper means of defense.
To say the least, the screenplay is relatively unfocused as it seems more like a string of vignettes rather than an overarching story line. What holds it together is how obviously enthused these actors are to be back in these roles and this colorful world. Even though there are multiple scenes that don’t quite justify themselves enough for existing, other than giving our leads something random to do, they were still entertaining. By all accounts, this is a messy product saved by the fact that it is a fun mess to watch. Despite some elements of the dozen subplots that slightly annoyed me, such as the character arc dealing with Wichita. In the first film, I remember that Wichita went through a whole ordeal when learning to let others into her life instead of pushing them away. That lesson is almost completely forgotten in the first ten minutes of the sequel as she up and leaves Columbus when sporadically getting cold feet about their relationship. Then when she comes back to Columbus, there seems to be a strange amount of flack that she gives him for briefly finding someone when Wichita at that point had been gone without warning or any communication for a whole month… I can’t empathize with a character that forgets her own lessons and basically screws her romantic interest over, only to come back and give him sass for trying to move on after breaking his heart. That was a little annoying, I won’t lie. Although, it didn’t distract me too dreadfully as I was still along for the ride with these characters. Plus, I like Emma Stone and believe she is a true treasure to behold.
Woody Harrelson is Woody Harrelson. In other words, he’s awesome in everything. I’ve loved Harrelson since I was a kid seeing him in Cheers, White Men Can’t Jump, and The People vs Larry Flynt… my parents allowed me to watch pretty much anything. When Zombieland came out, it was like falling in love with his personality all over again. That’s also kind of how I feel about Double Tap. Harrelson is hilarious in this movie with his over-the-top, cowboy antics. At times, admittedly, he is a tad too cartoonish for his own good. Although I didn’t have much of a problem with that because he still felt authentic to the character of Tallahassee, who is anything except a subtle character. One thing I did miss though was the thoughtfulness written into Tallahassee from the original film when it provided a glimpse behind the façade to reveal a man who misses his lost family. My hopes were to see something similar return for the sequel, but truthfully anything of that nature can only be taken at face value. Other than that, Tallahassee is a blast to watch as he is an explosion of delight on screen.
This may be a nitpick, but I was honestly disappointed by how underutilized Abigail Breslin’s character felt. As though she was barely a part of a movie with the plot centered on literally tracking her down. Not the biggest issue in the world and I certainly was able to enjoy myself regardless. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t hoping for more, especially when it establishes themes of an uneasy ‘father-daughter’ type relationship between Little Rock and Tallahassee that frankly goes nowhere. Then again, it was nice simply having her back and I hope that there is more to come.
In this continuation of Zombieland, we are introduced to a couple of new players; a kickass Elvis fan played by Rosario Dawson and an bubbly airhead played by Zoey Deutch. Both, in my opinion, are welcomed fun additions to the cast. Dawson was equal parts cute and badass between the relationship that sparks between her and Tallahassee as well as her taking out some brain munching undead corpses. My only criticism about Dawson’s character is that I would have appreciated more screen time dedicated to her. Which is funny, seeing how I have the complete opposite complaint on Deutch’s character, who I believe retains a little too much screen time. Not to the extent that I disliked her character, I thought that she was funny enough for a while. However, Deutch only has so much substance to work with before her ditzy girl schtick gets old. Either way, I enjoyed both actresses and hope to see them continue on their journey into Zombieland.
To say that I’m over the moon for the R rated horror comeback recently, would be putting it lightly. Seriously, I’m so happy within the last couple of years to see some bloody and gory horror back in the cinema again. For too long we were solely given PG-13 paranormal flicks without much in the way of variety. While there were definitely some solid entries in that subgenre, I’ve just missed a good hard R horror movie. Not necessarily the hardest R I’ve ever seen, but it’s a zombie movie and many zombie movies thrive on fun gore. Zombieland 2 has some doozies for fun and creative gore.
Lacking A Little Danger
A defining characteristic of Zombieland was that, even though it was a comedy, there was a real sense of danger that came from the world our protagonists inhabit. At any moment, because of the tone and unpredictable nature of their world, it felt like anyone could subsequently perish. Not to say that is completely missing from the sequel, but I mostly didn’t feel that same threat present for our heroes. If someone finds themselves in a remotely overwhelming situation against the undead here, I wasn’t convinced that there was any chance of anyone’s ultimate doom. To clarify, I didn’t want any of the characters to die, I only wanted to feel that same fear for them that I did ten years ago. Unfortunately, I didn’t really.
Zombieland: Double Tap takes much of what we love about the first movie and carries on wholeheartedly. Eisenberg, Breslin, Harrelson, Stone, and Dawson all share fantastic chemistry together. Eisenberg and Harrelson appear as though they haven’t aged a day in the last ten years, which is eerie. To see everyone back and giving their reprisal some major love was, no doubt, satisfying. The zombie makeup and special effects were mostly well done with minimal issues in terms of CGI. I will say that the green screen for the driving sequences was drastically noticeable. At the end of the day, this is a fun sit that I wouldn’t mind revisiting as a double feature with the 2009 original. Fun, silly, gory, funny, energetic, and badass. Please, by all means, enjoy another tour within the world of Zombieland!
Favorite Zombieland Tour
That’s All Folks!
Zombieland: Double Tap… what did you think? Like or dislike? Agree or disagree? Wonder why in the hell it took ten years to get a sequel? Comment down below and let me know! Also, if you so happened to have enjoyed my review then please share this article around the social media world. Thank you all so much for reading and have yourselves an undead day! Or day of the dead… like the tradition… or the George A. Romero movie… I give up.
© 2019 John Plocar