Zombieland: Double Tap Review: A sufficiently funny sequel with few shortcomings
Ruben Fleischer’s feature directorial debut, Zombieland, is one of my long-time favorites and a movie that I pretty much consider to be perfect from start to finish. With a charming likability to each character, a great sense of style and humor that was unique to the zombie movie genre, and surprising emotional moments that work because of the strong storytelling, Zombieland is a film that I love more and more every time I see it. Hell, I even had a poster of Columbus’ first rule, Cardio, plastered on my college door. So, all of this is what made me excited, but also cautious, of Fleischer and the crew returning for a follow-up.
Surprisingly, I wasn’t super into the trailers as seeing more survivors than just the main four wasn’t exactly appealing for me because of how alone the group felt in the first one. Honestly, there was a part of me that knew that the sequel, Double Tap, wouldn’t be able to fully recapture the magic and there’re some things that left me a little disappointed. However, even for the things it pales in comparison to the original, the cast’s “in it to win it” mentality completely won me over and the strength of the film’s funny bone is what makes it a fairly worthy sequel.
In some way, I don’t know what’s funnier: how much things have changed or how much they haven’t? Columbus (Jessie Eisenberg) is still the peppy little spitfire that’s still afraid of clowns and pisses Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) off from time to time. Wichita (Emma Stone) still has trust issues even though her and Columbus have been together for quite some time and she is still very protective of Little Rock (Abigail Breslin). Actually, I would say that Little Rock has definitely changed the most as she now strives for independence and to be with people her own age. This is what kicks our group off on a new adventure as Little Rock flies the coop and leaves everyone behind, which makes the group chase after her after she meets a young pacifist named Berkley (Avan Jogia).
You know, even for all of the things that stayed the same that still made me laugh, a lot of the new things that have come with time are even funnier. With Columbus and Wichita together, but having issues, there’s a lot of funny conversations they have where they hilariously bicker like an old married couple. Eisenberg and Stone definitely recapture the comedic magic of their characters and with Columbus having much more confidence than he did in the original, he can actually dish insults and digs back at everyone rather than just take them and move on. Harrelson still makes Tallahassee just as great as ever with his craving for everything machismo still being a driving force for what makes him hilarious. From his ongoing battle against driving the minivan they have because it’s not manly enough to his reaction to reaching Elvis’ house, Harrelson had me laughing from start to finish. Also, it’s great to see the film actually make the cast look older as it fits more with the environment and is something that most films wouldn’t do.
Even the new characters make their mark without ever outdoing the main cast and creating some interesting plot threads and comedic moments of their own. Rosario Dawson’s Nevada has some fun quips and solid chemistry and there’s a fun doppelganger moment with Luke Wilson’s Albequerque and Thomas Middleditch’s Flagstaff. The show-stealer, though, is Zoey Deutch’s Madison as her bubbly personality and brain-dead demeanor will keep viewers laughing with every moment with her – even if it gets a little old after a while. Some of the new things added to the Zombieland lore are also great. With the world changing since the last time we saw the group, there’re now new types of zombies that are hilariously named and the opening sequence for them is great. Some of the new rules that Columbus shares are great, especially when he compares them to Flagstaff’s Commandments, but this leads to one of the film’s biggest issues.
In the film’s attempts to callback to and replicate some elements that made the original great, it ends up creating a repetitive and frustrating experience as such a big fan of the original. The film constantly overuses and shows Columbus’ rules throughout the film and it almost treats viewers as if they’re dumb. It’s such obnoxious handholding that’s totally unnecessary and even going over the rules from the first film were unnecessary for me as a fan because I already knew them so well. Surely, I can understand going over some for new viewers, but they’re shown so often that I think that new viewers would also find it annoying how much they are a part of the film.
Honestly, even some of the callbacks feel cheap and unnecessary. The use of copy and paste lines and even similar scenes just came off as lazy at times and it’s one of the main reasons this film struggles to stand on its own. Worst of all, the sequel can’t capture the same kind of serious messages and themes of the first and the finale is a bit of a letdown. There was just something so personal about the group’s mission of trying to make it to Pacific Playland and the finale actually had some real touch and go kind of moments. Double Tap definitely doesn’t have that, and the message Columbus has at the end is just incredibly forced. The entire end sequence was just so lackluster and it was almost as if the writers weren’t sure how to end the movie so everything just feels rushed.
Even with Double Tap missing some of the special ingredients that made Zombieland an iconic zombie movie, there’s still something about it that makes it a fairly worthy sequel. Maybe it’s that reuniting with the group just felt so good or that Double Tap is just so damn funny at times, but regardless, it’s a film that will easily satisfy fans of the original and maybe even keep their fingers crossed for third film in the near future.