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Zombieland: Double Tap - Review

Zombieland: Double Tap

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

THE cinematic equivalent of a Twinkie, Zombieland 2: Double Tap is a guilty pleasure that’s fun without being particularly good for you.

Boasting the return of all its principal players – from Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin in the lead roles to Ruben Fleischer as director and Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick as co-writers – this belated sequel employs the same wit and camaraderie but nowhere near as much heart.

Set 10 years on from the surprise hit original, the film picks up as zombies have evolved and the central group of Columbus (Eisenberg), Tallahassee (Harrelson), Wichita (Stone) and Little Rock (Breslin) are holed up in The White House.

But the family dynamics are fractured. Wichita has been spooked by Columbus’ marriage proposal and Little Rock wants to meet someone her own age. When the two sisters decide to hit the road, it’s left to Columbus and Tallahassee to go after them.

Given that co-writers Reese and Wernick (now joined by Dave Callaham) have penned two Deadpool movies in the intervening period between Zombieland 1 and 2 it’s perhaps not surprising to find the wit more acerbic and pop culture referencing this time around.

The fourth wall is broken almost immediately when Eisenberg’s narrator thanks the audience for coming back given the high number of zombie-related alternatives. And the same voiceover continues to inform the viewer of the many references the film is making, sometimes getting in the way of the narrative flow.

But Double Tap‘s undoubted strengths lie in its main cast, who exhibit the same chemistry that helped to make them so cool first time around. Harrelson, in particular, shines, whether struggling to come to terms with a new vehicle of choice, or indulging his Elvis Presley adoration with a surprise new love interest.

While newcomers such as Rosario Dawson and Zoey Deutch, as a brain challenged new love rival for Columbus’ affections, also make a good impression, while Luke Wilson and Thomas Middleditch crop up as two doppelgangers with inevitably amusing results.

Fleischer keeps the action lively and the many kills suitably bloody and inventive, dropping in a couple of classic [and grisly] death moves without feeling overly gratuitous or offensive. And there are some really well realised comedy scenarios that throw in a few surprises and twists on the genre, including a must-stay and see return for one of the first film’s best cameo performers [twice during the end credits].

Where Double Tap stutters, however, is in its decision to play things steadfastly for laughs. The first film became such a hit because it did all of the above while throwing in some genuinely affecting and even poignant emotional arcs (with Tallahassee’s back-story particularly affecting).

This time around, there’s no such investment, which feels like a missed opportunity. Indeed, it’s a shortcoming of the film in general that a lot of what is set up (either by the first film or certain plot beats here) never gets fully realised.

An early introduction to the three types of evolved zombie is almost instantly forgotten (with the more clever versions of the undead never materialising), while even the Terminator-style super-zombies feel under-developed and a waste of their potential (not that the first Zombieland was really about the zombies).

But the writing here feels much looser, while the casual disregard for life (albeit zombie life) leaves you feeling under-nourished.

Zombieland: Double Tap is therefore a vastly inferior sequel in many ways, but one that still succeeds in entertaining on a silly, instantly disposable level. It’s a fun treat that delivers the odd rush – but you may well feel guilty for liking it as much as you do afterwards.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 97mins
UK Release Date: October 18, 2019