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“Zombieland: Double Tap” Film Review

“Zombieland: Double Tap” sees the Twinkie-hunting family — Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) — find their most permanent home to date: the White House.

At first, sleeping in the Lincoln Bedroom and playing with priceless historical artifacts is a blast, but soon, Little Rock grows tired of feeling like the baby of the group — more specifically, Tallahassee’s gun-toting, Elvis-grooving baby.

On top of this, Columbus spooks Wichita with talk of settling down. Given they live in a world where one bite can turn them into rage monsters foaming at the mouth for flesh, “for better or worse” seems like a rough deal, doesn’t it?

So the sisters split, leaving Columbus and Tallahassee to travel the wastelands, running into new people, new sanctuaries and new zombies, even deadlier than before.

As I glance back at the last few paragraphs, I see the potential. I want to believe this story works. But it doesn’t. 

zombieland double tap

“Double Tap” has many problems, but the one that continually nags is that it reminds me of the original “Zombieland.” It would be one thing to recycle jokes, but I spotted entire scenes that were taken from the first film. Adding small twists or updates to these scenes counts as much for original material as changing the wording on copied homework. It might look different at first glance, but the effect is the same and, often in the case of “Double Tap,” obnoxious, overblown and tedious.

I don’t understand why sequels will split up a group that the original spent most of its time uniting. Part of the fun of something like “Zombieland” or “Guardians of the Galaxy” was watching characters push each other’s buttons and develop camaraderie. However, both sequels separate their groups and instead of then filling the runtime with sharp, inventive vignettes of comedy or action, we get characters complaining about the group’s drama. I end up waiting for the crew to get back together instead of enjoying the gnarly new ways they can kill zombies.

And I do enjoy some of the new action. Cinematographer Chung-hoon Chung (“Oldboy,” “It”) makes the fight sequences more fluid, employing extended tracking shots where every punch and kick can be clearly seen. With a larger scope, some of the more bombastic scenes were a delightful spectacle, reminding me of some of the horde battles in a game like “Dead Rising 3.”

Some of the new characters are fun as well. Zoey Deutch is the movie’s MVP as ditzy blonde Madison. In a movie where it feels like the leads are on cruise control, she injects manic, carefree energy that brings the laughs. It’s really a thankless character, the kind of humor one would see in the ‘00s, but Deutch gives it her all.

Rosario Dawson is woefully underused as the tough Reno, relegated to romantic interest status. With good jokes and action, the potential for her to fully integrate in the group is there, but she just doesn’t have enough screen time. It’s frustrating to have a breath of fresh air so readily available but rarely used.

zombieland double tap

“Zombieland” released in 2009, just after the zombie boom of the ‘00s had reached its zenith with a wealth of films — “28 Days Later,” “Shaun of the Dead” and “REC,” just to name a few. With perfect timing, the movie dropped late enough that it didn’t fade into the background with a wealth of copycats, but soon enough to still be relevant in that scene. By paying homage to this new class of zombie pictures, “Zombieland” crafted a patchwork mythology that felt fresh, inspired by its contemporaries instead of beholden to them.

In the years since, the zombie movie has taken a backseat in popularity, but by no means has the genre disappeared. “The Walking Dead” would go on to take TV by storm and exhaust its fans’ patience. Smaller independent features like “The Girl With All The Gifts,” “Train to Busan” and “Maggie,” starring Abigail Breslin, have developed different takes on the genre. 

“Zombieland: Double Tap” doesn’t take advantage of any of this. With a joke about “The Walking Dead” so brief that it wouldn’t even count as a cursory glance, the movie leans on upping the ante of older jokes and letting its actors ramble during extended scenes of bad improv that end with someone explaining the joke. I know self-awareness is in vogue, but this is ridiculous.

Despite its 99-minute runtime, “Double Tap” is paced like a movie that wants to start, but just can’t quite get there. It’s a slog of a sit, watching multiple car ride conversations broken up by more conversations in a building. Trying to make sense of some of these developments feels less productive than bashing one’s head into a brick wall. While the ending ramps up the ridiculous fun, it’s too little, too late. The same can be said for this long-gestating, brain-dead sequel. 

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