By Chic DiCiccio
Here’s an interesting fact: 2009’s “Zombieland” was the highest grossing zombie-themed movie of all time until 2013. That’s when “World War Z” and Brad Pitt’s flowing locks overtook it, and “Zombieland” was destined to be a well-received yet forgotten comedy.
Then “The Walking Dead” happened. Its popularity has brought a decade long deluge of zombie-related entertainment, and most of it is garbage.
Thankfully, that means there’s a load of material for writers Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick and Dave Callaham to satirize in “Zombieland: Double Tap,” a sequel that somehow manages to be equal parts necessary and unnecessary.
The sequel picks up 10 years after the first ended, and this dysfunctional family unit has not only continued to survive the zombie apocalypse, they’ve moved into the White House. Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) and Wichita (Emma Stone) have been a couple, but one of them is experiencing commitment issues. Their relationship is easily the weakest aspect of the entire movie, especially believing that the fear of commitment reared its head after a decade.
The more interesting dynamic comes from Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin). Little Rock isn’t a little girl anymore, and she naturally wants to flee the nest, which brings out the absurdity in Tallahassee’s parent-by-default.
Once Little Rock runs off, “Double Tap” becomes a character-driven, dialogue-heavy road comedy with clever banter and goofy zombie action.
There are a handful of new characters, and none of them have the hilarious impact of Zoey Deutch’s Madison. She’s ditzy, literal and a complete breath of fresh air. It’s a miracle that someone that dumb has survived a death plague for 10 years, but that only adds to just how smart this zombie satire truly is.
Rosario Dawson, Luke Wilson and Thomas Middleditch show up in what are limited to extended cameos along with a certain comedic legend who clearly has no problem in mocking his IMDB resumé. The addition of Avan Jogia as Berkeley, a pacifist hippie, allows for Tallahassee to riff on the insane ideal that someone could remain peaceful in such a violent world.
Ruben Fleischer, who gave us the campy “Venom,” returns to direct, and this becomes his second best feature, ranked just under the initial “Zombieland.” The clever usage of Columbus’ rules for survival are frequent and applied with hilarious results. Fleischer does piece together a fun sequence inside a motel that neighbors Graceland, which is another plot development designed so Harrelson can, for lack of better words, get his Elvis on.
“Zombieland: Double Tap” is most definitely fan service, but it’s not a cash grab. It’s extremely cool that four Academy Award nominated actors (and one winner in Stone) all came back to star in such a low-budget goofy spoof, and that’s easily the most charming aspect of the movie. These actors could do this in their sleep, but any attempts to make this some kind of bizarro franchise should stop right here.