After it premiered in October 2009, “Zombieland” earned a mostly positive critical and audience response on its way to making over $100 million at the box office. In the 10 years since, the film has become something of a cult classic, with its avid fans longing for a sequel. That finally happened this weekend, and “Zombieland: Double Tap” is worth the wait.
Set 10 years after the original, the film follows the familiar foursome of Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin). The gang is up to many similar adventures, traversing through a zombie-inundated America and figuring out how to get along.
As with the original, one of the best parts of this movie is the cast, with the standout being Harrelson. Wisely, the filmmakers gave him more to do and he’s electric, giving a hilarious performance that’s infectiously fun.
The other returning players also do some great work. Eisenberg is doing his nerdy, insecure thing well. Stone may be phoning this one in a little, but she’s such an excellent actress that she still gets some great laughs that imbues a little heart in her character. Breslin is the weakest link and she does not get much screen time by comparison, but she is still OK.
There are some newcomers this time around who contribute nicely, with the best and most substantial performance coming from Zoey Deutch as Madison. She manages to get a few funny moments out of character who is a little too clichéd and over-the-top even for this world.
In addition to the leads, director Ruben Fleischer and screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick returned for the sequel, and they do a fine job. Fleischer is once again having tons of fun playing with zombie movie violence, using slow motion and over-the-top violence that is both funny and entertaining.
Reese and Wernick, aided by Dave Callaham, turn in an even better script than they did for “Zombieland.” The screenplay is more consistently funny here, as the screenwriters do what Reese and Wernick did with “Deadpool 2” by making everything more ridiculously over-the-top. There is never a stretch of more than a scene or two with multiple, big moments of humor.
Part of the reason the comedy works so well is it is all character-based. Many of the jokes here aren’t too cutesy, they don’t just parody zombie movie conventions and they aren’t just vulgar. They are all rooted in what the audience knows about these characters, making the humor smarter and more effective.
Of course, there are some bits that do not work, like many of Breslin’s scenes, some of the jokes with the Madison character or an extended joke about the stupidity of ridesharing services. But those are few and far between.
The film also suffers slightly because whatever poignancy was originally present in this universe is basically absent now. The filmmakers do try to get some heart in the picture, but it feels forced and like they don’t care about it. Fortunately, those moments are brief and followed up shortly with another joke.
Those who enjoyed the original film will find plenty to like here, as the basic premise of this film is to take what worked and turn it up a couple notches. I really like “Zombieland,” though I wouldn’t say I love it. I’m still not quite ready to say the L word about “Zombieland: Double Tap,” but it is easily one of the funniest movies of the year. I give it 4 out of 5 stars.
“Zombieland: Double Tap” stars Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin. It is rated R for bloody violence, language throughout, some drug and sexual content and runs 1 hour and 39 minutes.