Unlike the Twinkie (supposedly), zombie movies don’t seem to have an expiration date. And so we get Zombieland: Double Tap, a 10-years-later sequel to 2009’s Zombieland that, at first blush, doesn’t seem to be a movie we necessarily needed or wanted. Ruben Fleischer’s original film was an enjoyable comedy, with some fun, gnarly zombie kills and great chemistry between Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, and Abigail Breslin. It feels like damning with faint praise to say that it’s a movie that doesn’t have much weight to it, but is still a perfectly fine way to spend an hour and a half at the movies. It’s funny that these two films command such a strong pedigree of actors (something the trailers poke fun at, with all the “Academy Award nominated” listings).
It’s a bit refreshing, during this season when every film is trying to make its mark for consideration for lofty awards, that Zombieland: Double Tap simply wants to entertain you, no more, no less. The actors seem to be enjoying themselves, and if the movie doesn’t really have a thematic center, it’s fine because we’re having such a good time with everyone, including some new characters played by Rosario Dawson, Luke Wilson, Thomas Middleditch, Avan Jogia, and especially Zoey Deutch, who happily runs away with the movie every chance she gets. There’s something episodic about both Zombieland films – both of them feel like they are highlight reels for season one and season two respectively, as opposed to fully encompassed stories. You could consider Zombieland the less dour, more upbeat alternative to The Walking Dead. At this point, the audience isn’t a stranger to this genre – we know the beats and the arcs and how these stories normally go.
It’s been a few years since the events of the first film, and our heroes have taken up residence in the White House, fortifying it to protect themselves from any zombie invasion. But, as tends to happen over time, Tallahassee (Harrelson), Columbus (Eisenberg), Wichita (Stone), and Little Rock (Breslin) are getting a little irritated with each other. Tallahassee isn’t used to depending on other people, and even though he’s formed a fatherly bond with Little Rock, he’s itching to hit the road. Columbus and Wichita seem to care for each other very much, but Wichita is becoming overwhelmed with Columbus’ clingy nature. Finally, Little Rock is bored and looking for people her own age. When Little Rock decides to take off, her sister Wichita is obligated to go after her, with Columbus and Tallahassee in pursuit. And as we see the wider world post-apocalypse, we learn that a new, more terrifying form of zombie has evolved, one that can’t be as easily dispatched, which causes all kinds of problems for our heroes.
Straight up, if you enjoyed Zombieland, you’ll enjoy Zombieland: Double Tap. The tone is the same, the sense of humor is the same, and if you enjoyed the zombie kills and the mayhem of the original, Double Tap continues that trend. There isn’t much new about Double Tap except the additional characters. Dawson plays Nevada, an Elvis enthusiast who strikes a connection with Tallahassee. Deutch is Madison, a young woman stuck at the mall (“Just like in Dawn of the Dead!” she exclaims at one point) and who utterly belongs there, even as she puts a wedge between Columbus and Wichita. Little Rock gets attached to Berkeley (Jogia), a hipster type close to Little Rock’s age. Spicing things up are Luke Wilson and Thomas Middleditch, playing characters who seem to be odd reflections of both Tallahassee and Columbus.
Those looking for a more consequential movie would probably do better to steer towards the thousands of other zombie movies in the catalog; Zombieland: Double Tap doesn’t have many stakes, and the ones it does have get walked back pretty quickly. Like the original, it doesn’t occupy much space afterwards – you may be hard pressed to remember much of it except maybe the climax. And yet, Zombieland: Double Tap delivers everything that it promises to deliver. It just doesn’t offer much more than that. For those who had a good time with the first film, that good time continues with this film. Just like eating a Twinkie, you may enjoy consuming Zombieland: Double Tap, but afterwards, there’s not much more to say about it.