Zombieland: Double Tap was directed by Reuben Fleischer (Venom, Zombieland) from a screenplay Dave Callaham, Rhett Reese, and Paul Wernick (the latter two of which wrote the original film, as well as Deadpool), and once again stars Jessie Eisenberg as Columbus, Woody Harrelson as Tallahassee, Emma Stone as Wichita, and Abigail Breslin as Little Rock. It’s been a little while since the first time Columbus told us a story, and our main family of zombie-killing, rule-following road trippers are looking for something a little more permanent than a vehicle in which to pack their bags. Settling on the abandoned White House (yes, that one) as a prime spot of real estate, the crew hitch their wagons there, hoping to stay in one place that they might actually be able to call “home,” especially considering most of their original homes are now zombie-infested death traps. But not everyone feels comfortable staying in one place for long, and it is soon discovered that Little Rock (Breslin) has run off with a hippie musician from Berkley (Avan Jogia); as the gang sets out to bring her back, they run into new characters, more lethal brands of zombie, and evolving dangers at every turn. Double Tap also stars Zoey Deutch, Luke Wilson, Thomas Middleditch, and Rosario Dawson.
I enjoyed the first Zombieland when it came out back in 2009; it wasn’t perfect, and some aspects of it have admittedly not aged particularly well (the wrecking of Native American iconography by white middle-class Americans, one of whom is clearly a gun-toting bullet lover, doesn’t quite feel appropriate in 2019), but it brought a lot of fresh ideas to a genre that hadn’t really had a decent entry in a while, and it was genuinely fun to hang out with the characters for an hour and a half while they told us their rules for survival and kicked a lot of zombie ass by both following and breaking those rules. Plus, although Harrelson and Breslin had been around for a bit, most people were introduced to Eisenberg and Stone through that first film, as their careers wouldn’t skyrocket until about a year or two later. Now that ten years have passed, and all of the main stars are Academy Award nominees (Stone with the only win for Best Actress in La La Land in 2016), it was always going to be interesting to see how the cast and crew would approach a sequel with the kind of retrospect we now have on the movie industry as a whole, sequels, reboots, and universe-building, etc. After all, the first film was made in a pre-Avengers world, so universe-building wasn’t exactly all the rage at the time. In essence, this film really could have gone in many different directions, whether those directions be franchise-building or just doing the same thing all over again. Luckily, with Double Tap (and what a perfect name for a sequel to Zombieland), it seems that Fleischer and company have managed to pull off a sequel that fits the spirit of that original film without too many bumps along the way (though some bumps are larger than others).
One of the things that works the best about Double Tap is the same thing that worked about the original Zombieland film, and that is the character development and progression of our main three’s individual stories. Unfortunately, Abigail Breslin isn’t in this one quite as much since (as noted above) she’s on the run, so we don’t really get to see her character progress very far, but she does get some decent moments to shine nonetheless. They’re minute, but they exist. Really, this character progression is mostly reserved for Columbus and Wichita’s relationship, and it actually goes to some places you might not otherwise expect, considering the world these characters live in. Columbus is ready to take their relationship to the next step, but Wichita still has some trust issues regarding getting attached to people, and they don’t just go away because she decided to be with Columbus after the end of the last movie. It’s a subtle touch for the filmmakers to make good on the trust issues from the last film not going away (even expanding on them in some moments), rather than acting as if Wichita ending up with Columbus was going to fix that problem for her. The new characters are really good too, particularly Rosario Dawson’s “Nevada,” who plays off of Woody Harrelson like a fiddle in a country song and almost instantly becomes someone you want to see more of in this world. Luke Wilson and Thomas Middleditch are also quite good in their performances, but unfortunately don’t quite have enough screen-time to count as any more than a couple of glorified cameos, which is a bummer considering how much fun they were to watch.
Performance-wise, though, it’s Zoey Deutch that steals the show this time around as an affluent valley girl type who’s pretty much exactly the character you’ve seen in Double Tap’s trailers. It would have been nice to get some more expanded characterization with her, maybe dig a little deeper to find out what surprises might lie in store, but such as it is, Deutch carrying this kind of performance through the entire movie without becoming more annoying than she is funny is a feat in itself, and she should be commended for her efforts. Since Deutch’s character takes so much time to establish, however, it does cut a bit into the development of Tallahassee; Harrelson is still clearly having a blast playing this character, and that’s nice to see, but his arc kind of gets relegated to background noise for most of the film except in the spots where it’s the most relevant element.
I did have a few problems with Double Tap despite enjoying it overall; most of them I’ve already mentioned (such as Breslin’s extended absence, the guest characters not appearing for very long, etc), but some others, such as the expansion of the zombie types, are a little bit more prominent and left me wanting more of an explanation or justification for why these newer types of zombies exist. It’s interesting to note that there are different categories of zombie out there, but the film doesn’t really do much with those except to use one as a recurring joke that doesn’t quite work as well as the filmmakers probably think it does. One of those zombie types is known as the “T-800,” a faster, harder to kill zombie than most others, but that’s really about as far as the movie gets with explaining them; otherwise, they’re virtually indistinguishable from most other zombies. It’s not a deal-breaker or anything, but when you think about it afterwards, some of the cracks in Double Tap’s armor start to show. (Oh, and some of the jokes don’t always land, but your mileage may vary where that’s concerned.)
The main issue I have with Double Tap, though, is its plot structure, which is much more noticeable if (like me and YouTuber Austin Burke, who I met at a double feature screening of this film) you watch the original Zombieland and this movie back to back. Their plot structures are almost identical, sometimes beat-for-beat replicas, and while this sequel certainly stays true to the spirit of the original film (as it should), that adherence to what made the first one work so well does become a bit of a crutch throughout this movie. A lot of the different beats and plot points are just the same ones with the names of characters and locales switched out for others, and it sort of starts to feel like after conceiving the new, interesting characters, the filmmakers didn’t really know where to go with this one plot-wise, so they just made the first one again, disguising it by switching some names around and calling it Double Tap (a pretty ironic title for making close to the same movie twice, come to think of it).
Other than that, however, Zombieland: Double Tap is a pretty fun time, and I enjoyed getting to hang out with these characters again in a world I didn’t know I missed. While the almost beat-for-beat repetition of the plot structure from the original Zombieland does weigh it down a bit, the performances and Fleischer’s familiarity with these characters are what make Double Tap a worthy successor to the original, even if it’s not quite as fresh as I’d hoped it could be. Not bad for a decade off.
I’m giving “Zombieland: Double Tap” an 8/10
- The Friendly Film Fan
Film critic in my free time. Film enthusiast in my down time. Writer for Bitesize Breakdown.