REVIEW: Zombieland: Double Tap (2019)

Theatrical Release Poster – Columbia Pictures

The following is a review of Zombieland: Double Tap — Directed by Ruben Fleischer.

Belated comedy sequels scare me. They certainly don’t scare me as much as the flesh-eating living dead can, but whenever I hear about a sequel to a comedy that came out a decade ago, or longer, I get a chill down my spine. I watch these trailers with a concerned look on my face, and I’m always ready to cover my forehead with my palm if the trailer frustrates me. 2014’s Dumb and Dumber To was a terribly disappointing belated sequel to Peter Farrelly’s 1994 comedy classic, and Ben Stiller’s 2016 sequel to Zoolander might be one of the worst comedy sequels that I’ve ever seen. So when I pressed play on the first trailer for Zombieland: Double Tap, which has been released ten years after the original comedy hit came out, I was more worried than I was excited. To tell you the truth, I absolutely hated that trailer, which is exactly why I was so pleasantly surprised to see that Zombieland: Double Tap is one of the rare belated comedy sequels that actually works.

Ruben Fleischer’s Zombieland: Double Tap takes place roughly ten years after the events of the first film, and, immediately, it appears that not much has changed. Tallahassee (played by Woody Harrelson), Columbus (played by Jesse Eisenberg), Wichita (played by Emma Stone), and Little Rock (played by Abigail Breslin) are all still hanging out together, and, by the time the sequel begins, they have found a new home in the White House. Columbus, who is still obsessed with lists, is in a relationship with Wichita, who has commitment issues, and Little Rock is getting tired of Tallahassee acting like he is her father. When, one morning, Little Rock leaves the group behind to start a relationship with a pacifist hitchhiker (played by Avan Jogia), the group, alongside the dim-witted newcomer Madison (played by Zoey Deutch), go out on the road in an attempt to bring Little Rock back to safety.

When Double Tap begins, we hear Jesse Eisenberg’s character speak in a fourth-wall-breaking voice-over. However, he isn’t just getting ready to announce the Zombie Kill of the Year, new additions to his list of survival tips, or new names for different kinds of zombies. No, Eisenberg is also thanking the audience for having chosen Double Tap as this evening’s choice of zombie entertainment. Though zombie films and shows are nowhere near as popular as they have previously been, millions still watch The Walking Dead. Even though Zombieland is a popular comedy that I like a lot, it hasn’t really been on my mind for a very long time. I’m sure the cast and crew were wondering if people even wanted this sequel. Now that it’s back on my mind with this surprisingly solid follow-up, I would honestly like another sequel perhaps ten years down the road.

Zombieland: Double Tap is a fun little reunion for everyone. It is directed by the same filmmaker as it was back in 2009, and, although co-writer Dave Callaham has joined the party, the screenwriting duo of Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick have collaborated on a Zombieland-screenplay once again. The original cast is also back and it is a welcomed return. Regrettably, the plot dictates that Breslin, who probably needs to succeed here more than any of the other leads do, is separated from Eisenberg, Harrelson, and Stone. Harrelson is a hoot here, and I just loved seeing Stone and Eisenberg revisit their roles. But even though Harrelson, Stone, and Eisenberg are all great actors, many of their scenes have been stolen by Zoey Deutch who gives an extremely amusing performance as the home-wrecker that has altered Columbus and Wichita’s relationship. There is a surprising amount of new additions to the cast, but Zoey Deutch is undoubtedly the standout in Double Tap.

To me, it feels like Double Tap is the ultimate result of a team of writers throwing every idea that they have had over the years against a wall and hoping something would stick. It is a fun little road movie just like it was back in 2009, but it is a little bit rougher around the edges this time around. There are a couple of jokes here that simply don’t work, but I do think that most of the comedy here does work quite well. I think there are simply too many jokes centered around the idea that Tallahassee’s ideas, jokes, or catchphrases are outdated. Though the payoff is fun, I thought it was a weird choice to have Tallahassee focus on his supposed Native American ancestry. I also think that it is a little bit weird that they have basically stolen the lookalike joke from Shaun of the Dead. However, that lookalike sequence, which goes on for way too long, does have some great stuff here and there. For example, the sequence slowly builds to a great action scene that is made to appear as if it was done in a single take.

One of the weird things about Double Tap is that the film seems fascinated by Elvis Presley, but, honestly, I loved all of that as it tied into both Little Rock and Tallahassee’s arcs. Like many comedy sequels, Double Tap is a belated comedy sequel that is trying to be bigger than the previous film, as there is both a monster truck and hordes of zombies to mow down during the film. Another result of this attempt to expand the universe of Zombieland is something that I mentioned previously. Columbus has come up with names for the different kinds of zombies, and though the film doesn’t make use of the ‘Ninja-zombie’ enough, I liked the different new names for the undead. Also, although the film admittedly doesn’t have a genius and surprising new cameo, like the hilarious Bill Murray appearance in the first film, you absolutely should stay through the entirety of the closing credits to see some additional fun scenes.

Ruben Fleischer’s Zombieland: Double Tap isn’t as fresh or as original as the 2009 hit comedy, but it is a really nice return to the post-apocalyptic world inhabited by four characters that many still have a lot of love for. The plot may be thin and the Little Rock subplot is not as engaging as it maybe should be, but Emma Stone, Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, and Zoey Deutch make sure this return to Zombieland is pleasant and amusing.

7.5 out of 10

– Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen.

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