And so, another long-delayed comedy sequel results in disappointment.
“Zombieland: Double Tap” is the sequel to the 2009 quasi-cult classic “Zombieland,” and features Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Abigail Breslin and Emma Stone all reprising their roles as survivors in a zombie apocalypse. Rosario Dawson, Zoey Deutch, Avan Jogia, Luke Wilson and Thomas Middleditch all join the cast while Ruben Fletcher returns to direct.
I enjoyed the first “Zombieland,” and it is very much a product of its time. I saw it when I was just 15 years old (so a big deal seeing an R-rated film in theaters), and it was released before “The Walking Dead” had launched the zombie pop culture resurgence. The filmmakers tried for years to get a sequel made, but they eventually got busy with “Deadpool” and its sequel, while the cast was busy making the greatest film of all-time (Eisenberg, “The Social Network”) and winning Oscars (Stone, “La La Land”), among other things. The film was finally greenlit in July 2018, and didn’t even begin filming until this year. And was it worth the decade-long languish? I mean, not really at all, no.
Comedy sequels are notoriously poor compared to their predecessors, and when there is a long gap between projects the end result is often all-the-worse (“Blues Brothers 2000,” “Zoolander 2,” the list goes on). I’ve never been a big fan of Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick’s lazy, everything-against-the-wall style, and it fails more often than succeeds here. “Zombieland” really was lightning-in-a-bottle for the pair, seeing as their follow-ups such as “Life” and “G.I. Joe: Retaliation” are not good films, and “Deadpool” only really works because of Ryan Reynolds’ natural charm and improv. All too often here there are throwaway punchlines that are so predictable that it feels like a first draft script. There are certainly some jokes that do land, but they are mostly due to the dedication of the cast.
Woody Harrelson will always be a treasure, and there is some fun in watching him go full redneck and do Elvis impressions. Jesse Eisenberg is still doing that neurotic nerd routine that put him on the map and occasionally it gets a chuckle, and Emma Stone will never be bad in a film, as much as she of all the cast seems like she knows she’s above this (think Bradley Cooper in the dreadful “Hangover 3”).
Newcomer Zoey Deutch steals the show, however, as a ditzy blonde that Eisenberg and Harrelson find. Nailing her dumb pretty girl routine with precise timing, Deutch continues to show that she will shine in any project she’s in, no matter the surrounding quality. There is also a cameo from an actor we don’t see much from nowadays (or at least with them having fun and trying like they are here), however they don’t appear until mid-credits and it begs the question, why?
Now the jokes are obviously important but we also come to a zombie comedy for zombie kills. And how are they? I mean, meh. By now we’ve seen every way to bash, shoot or run over a walker, so the freshness that the original had in 2009 is gone. Plus, the film just looks ugly. No disrespect to cinematographer Chung Chung-hoon, who stages some nice tracking shots and long-takes, but mostly to director Ruben Fletcher and his SFX team. The greenscreen shots and CGI zombies would look bad by 2009 standards, and when it’s not looking fake it’s just looking unappealing.
“Zombieland: Double Tap” is a disappointment given its cast and the amount of time they had to get this thing right, but at the end of the day, like with so many comedy sequels that came before it, its short-comings won’t take away from the place the original holds in our hearts. See this one if you’re one of the massive fans of the first film, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it enough, but any casual supporter (or worse-yet, uninitiated) will likely not find worth it to a trip back to Zombieland.
Critics Rating: 4/10