In September 2009, a modest film starring Woody Harrelson (SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY; THE GLASS CASTLE; THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI; WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES), who was perhaps best known at the time for his role as Woody on TV’s CHEERS, and a few little known actors at the time — Jesse Eisenberg (CAFÉ SOCIETY; THE END OF THE TOUR; THE SOCIAL NETWORK), Emma Stone (THE FAVOURITE; BATTLE OF THE SEXES; LA LA LAND; IRRATIONAL MAN) and Abigail Breslin (AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY; LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE) — premiered at the 4th Fanastic Fest in Austin, Texas. ZOMBIELAND was the festival’s big hit and the film opened commercially across the US and Canada a week later, spreading out around the globe after that. The zom-com about four survivors of a zombie apocalypse eventually became a cult classic taking in just over HK$100 million at the box office, a figure that dwarfed that for SHAUN OF THE DEAD, the then reigning zom-com champion. It’s now ten years later and director Ruben Fleischer (VENOM) has reunited all the actors and writers from the original film for a second kick at the can in ZOMBIELAND: DOUBLE TAP.
Although ten years have also passed for Columbus (Eisenberg), Tallahassee (Harrelson), Wichita (Stone) and Little Rock (Breslin), not much has changed for either the foursome or the planet in the interim. If anything, they’re just getting on each other’s nerves more often. After they move to the abandoned White House, Columbus decides to propose to Wichita using the Hope Diamond but she turns him down, afraid of becoming too attached to him. Fortunately for Columbus, he’s able to move on rather quickly when he discovers Madison (Zoey Deutch, WHY HIM?), a ditsy blonde who has been holed up all this time in a walk-in freezer at a nearby deserted mall that he and Tallahassee visit for some R&R. Just as she joins their makeshift family, Little Rock, who is now grown up and would like to meet someone her own age, decides to take off in their well-fortified car, dubbed “the Beast”. She quickly meets a hippie named Berkeley (Avan Jogia) and together they head to Graceland. Fearing for her sister’s safety along with news of a superior strain of zombie now running amok, Wichita convinces the others to go after Little Rock. Along the way, the gang encounters numerous adventures and challenges that include meeting the guys’ doppelgangers, Albuquerque (Luke Wilson, CONCUSSION) and Flagstaff (Thomas Middleditch), and their no-nonsense friend, Nevada (Rosario Dawson).
ZOMBIELAND: DOUBLE TAP trots out many of the same gags that we saw in the first film. There are Columbus’ rules, which appear on the screen each time he spouts one, there are the slow motion zombie killing sprees and there is the running joke about a minivan. In place of the first film’s elaborate finale set piece (which, I’ll admit, I found to be very creative), ZOMBIELAND: DOUBLE TAP’s finale takes place in a post-industrial commune. The result is pretty much déjà vu, just a decade later. If you don’t mind seeing it all again or if you suffer from long-term memory loss, you’ll find this to be perfectly enjoyable entertainment. If, however, you expect something more from your cinema experience, you’re going to be disappointed. The film’s four protagonists, except for Little Rock who is no longer a child, have not changed one bit. Sure, there’s comfort in the familiar but some character development would be nice too. Fortunately or unfortunately, the story seems to get interesting whenever one of the new characters arrives and thank goodness for Deutch who singlehandedly saves ZOMBIELAND: DOUBLE TAP from being a real stinker. Even the film’s post-closing credits scene doesn’t help. If anything, it makes us realise how much better the original film is to this sequel. Screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (the DEADPOOL films; LIFE), along with newcomer David Callaham (THE EXPENDABLES franchise), had ten years to deliver something new, interesting and funny, and this is the best they could come up with? This is the epitome of lazy screenwriting and directing.
That being said, ZOMBIELAND: DOUBLE TAP is not a horrible film but it really is only for rabid fans of the original. If you haven’t seen ZOMBIELAND yet or you didn’t go gaga over it when you did see it, you’ll be shrugging your shoulders in indifference over this one.
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