When "Zombieland" came out in 2009, it was a sleeper hit that boasted a refreshing take on zombie movie tropes. Does "Zombieland: Double Tap," which premieres in theaters today, live up the same heights or has the premise become all too stale and familiar? Here's what the reviews say.
'Zombieland: Double Tap' Begins As The Four Main Characters Are Starting To Fall Apart As A Family
"Zombieland: Double Tap" brings back most of the core cast and creative team from the first film. Director Ruben Fleischer, fresh off the success of "Venom," is once again at the helm. Writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (this time joined by Dave Callaham) are back after two "Deadpool" movies. And Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, Jesse Eisenberg, and Abigail Breslin, all of which now have at least one Oscar-nomination to their name, once again play the dysfunctional, unconventional family unit of Tallahassee (Harrelson), Columbus (Eisenberg), Wichita (Stone), and Little Rock (Breslin).
Ten years after the events of "Zombieland," the found family of Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) are living in the White House and zombies are relatively old news. However, when Wichita and Little Rock leave unexpectedly, their family is split apart – and things get worse when Wichita returns with news that not only has Little Rock run off with a boy from Berkeley (Avan Jogia), but there are deadlier zombies in the world now.
Taking On The Trope Of The Ditzy Blonde, Newcomer Zoey Deutch Steals The Show
Deutch is the principal scene stealer, playing Madison (it's a 'Zombieland' tradition that everyone has the name of an American city), who has survived the undead onslaught in the freezer of a shopping-mall frozen-yogurt store. Madison is blond and not very smart, and Deutch brings remarkable energy and wit to a dreary stereotype.
The strongest new element by far is Madison with Deutch once again showing why she's a star. Deutch has shined again and again in films like "Vampire Academy," "Everybody Wants Some!!," and "Set It Up", and she steals every scene she's in with "Double Tap." Rather than just playing a typical airhead, Deutch uses her adept comic timing and characterization to make Madison her own.
'Double Tap,' However, Doesn't Have Much Meat On Its Bones When It Comes To Plot
There's not much of a plot to "Zombieland 2"; a lot of the narrative either remixes situations from the first film (the girls leaving the guy behind, an ultimate destination that promises a kind of sanctuary or wish fulfillment) or borrows tropes from the zombie apocalypse playbook (said sanctuary is a gun-and-conflict-free socialist utopia).
"Double Tap" manages to succeed even mildly thanks largely to its core cast members, who charm their way through a script that sometimes smacks of being written on the day of shooting.
And The Movie's Endless Recycling Of Materials From The Original Movie Can Grow Tiresome
Every movie sequel is inevitably beholden to certain elements of its first film, but 'Zombieland: Double Tap' cribs so liberally from the original that it robs the entire outing of any narrative tension whatsoever (and this is a franchise built around the fear of increasingly unpredictable brain-biting monsters, basically a cinematic tension delivery service).
Right away, "Double Tap" underwhelms by recycling some of its predecessor's key beats. The original film's final act saw Wichita and Little Rock split from the group when Wichita realizes she has grown too close to Columbus. In "Double Tap," virtually the exact same events transpire for essentially the same reason, with Wichita once again abandoning the group because she's growing too close to Columbus […] This sort of echoing continues throughout, with the film mostly playing it safe by following its predecessor's outline[.]
The '00s will be remembered as the decade of snark, a period where being smart and funny also meant being witheringly condescending towards everyone and everything that wasn't in on the joke. That, and zombie movies. 2009's "Zombieland" combined these two trends to clever effect, and was rewarded for its excellence in undead quippage with $102 million at the domestic box office. That film is now a cult classic, so it's strange that it took so long for its sequel, "Zombieland: Double Tap," to hit theaters. And unfortunately, the decade that passed between the two films was long enough for the approach to grow tiresome.
But If You've Been Craving A Reunion With 'Zombieland's Characters, 'Double Tap' Can Serve As An Adequate Reunion…
One can't help but leave the theater, giggling, but wondering why it took ten years to revisit the characters, and why after all that time they didn't have a more exciting new adventure to share with us. It's a slight, likable reunion with characters we love, doing wacky things without taking themselves too seriously.
Crafted with the sort of fan service one might expect from a sequel to a much-loved fan favourite, "Zombieland: Double Tap" doubles down on what the original provided for those apparently eagerly waiting for more.
… Thanks To The Chemistry And Strength Of The Main Cast
What ultimately powers "Double Tap" though is the chemistry and repartee among our four leads. Th"ere's even character growth… sort of. While Harrelson repeats his 'nut up or shut up' catchphrase two or three times, there's no mention made of his Twinkies addiction from the first film.
This cast of Oscar nominees is far too charismatic for "Double Tap" to not still be an enjoyable enough watch, and there are moments of brilliance sprinkled throughout, including a hilarious "zombie kill of the year" cutaway gag that rivals anything in the original film.
'Zombieland: Double Tap' sets the bar low and steps easily over it, which makes it better than a lot of recent big-screen comedies. It doesn't have much on its mind, but it isn't completely brain-dead either.