Zombieland: Double Tap Is Amusing But Ultimately Empty

Zombieland: Double Tap is amusing but inconsequential, failing to reach the heights of the 2009 original. While director Ruben Fleischer's long-awaited sequel expands upon its apocalyptic world, the script is largely forgettable.

Roughly a decade after the events of the first film, Columbus (Jessie Eisenberg), Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) have made their home in the ruins of the White House. While Columbus is content in this new existence, the rest of the group begins to have second thoughts about settling down, and consider leaving the group. When Columbus exasperate the situation by proposing to Wichita, she and Little Rock suddenly leave.

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A month later, Wichita returns for help: Little Rock has gone to a hippie commune with mellow poser Berkley (Avan Jogia). Wichita recruits Columbus, Tallahassee and the newfound Madison (Zoey Deutch), a bubbly survivor who has become something of a rebound for the heartbroken Columbus, to find Little Rock.

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The original Zombieland introduced a refreshing, self-aware taken on the undead apocalypse, and Double Tap continues to develop its goofy but gory version of the End Times. The world-building is the highlight of the film, introducing new types of zombies and fresh locations like the strangely idyllic Babylon Commune or the roadside Elvin museum known as the Dog House. The script, by Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick (Zombieland) and Dave Callaham (Ant-Man), plays up the comedic aspects even more than the previous film, taking every opportunity to be silly for the sake of silliness. That includes extended sequences around the world, and a lengthy detour through the Dog House that ultimately adds nothing to the narrative; however, it is consistently amusing.

There are plenty of references to the first film, but Double Tap subverts expectations for laughs. A running gag about Tallahassee being forced to drive the same minivan works well because of how committed Harrelson is to the routine, as does the character's obsession with Elvis Presley. Largely, the comedy works because of the cast, which includes a host of Academy Award nominees playing for some easy laughs.

All of that humor comes at the cost of the character, however. The original Zombieland was such a hit largely because of the comedic tone, but also due to the surprising depth of the central cast. For most of Double Tap, the characters essentially repeat their emotional arcs from the 2009 film. Stone feels particularly wasted in her role, with most of her time on screen devoted to directing snide comments to Columbus or Madison.

The new characters are, like the rest of the movie, amusing but hollow. Madison is a fun contrast to Wichita, at least in theory, but by the end she is played out to the point of exhaustion. Berkley is likewise more of a gag than an actual character.

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Fellow zombie killers Albuquerque (Luke Wilson) and Flagstaff (Thomas Middleditch) are there for an extended comedy routine with Columbus and Tallahassee, and not much else. While Rosario Dawson acquaints herself well to the film's as Tallahassee's new love interest, Nevada, she (like Stone) isn't given any real motivation or desire to play beyond "making it to the next scene." Double Tap isn't concerned with the characters beyond their potential for jokes, and that's its central flaw.

Zombieland: Double Tap lacks the emotional impact that helped to make the original so enjoyable. But although the world is more developed this time around, the characters aren't. There's nothing particularly wrong with Double Tap; it's still a frequently funny comedy about the zombie apocalypse. It's just not at the same level as its 2009 predecessor, which is, naturally, disappointing.

Directed by Ruben Fleischer from a script by Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick and David Callaham, Zombieland: Double Tap stars Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, Jesse Eisenberg and Abigail Breslin. The film opens Friday nationwide.

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