Monday, October 21, 2019

Movie Review: Zombieland: Double Tap

Zombieland: Double Tap ** ½ / *****
Directed by: Ruben Fleischer.
Written by: Dave Callaham and Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick.
Starring: Woody Harrelson (Tallahassee), Jesse Eisenberg (Columbus), Emma Stone (Wichita), Abigail Breslin (Little Rock), Rosario Dawson (Nevada), Zoey Deutch (Madison), Luke Wilson (Albuquerque), Avan Jogia (Berkeley), Thomas Middleditch (Flagstaff). 
It’s more than a little odd to be getting a sequel to Zombieland 10 years after the original came out. The original was a surprise hit in 2009 – the year before The Walking Dead TV show came on the air, and started another wave of zombie entertainment, that has petered out a little as the massive success of that show has faded in recent years. It almost feels like on both ends, Zombieland just missed the zombie boom.
The original film was a lot of fun – it isn’t quite Shaun of the Dead as far as zombie comedies go – but it’s about as good as you could get otherwise. It was fun and clever and bloody, and had a great foursome of actors at its core, and a legendary cameo, and was basically just a fun time at the movies. It wasn’t exactly brilliant or groundbreaking in any way – but hell if I didn’t have fun watching it back in 2009. With Double Tap, the film picks up 10 years later, and yet honestly, it kind of feels like the same thing all over again. There’s no real sense that time has passed here – and hell, if Abigail Breslin who was only 13 when the first came out, wasn’t part of the core four, you wonder if they would have tried to pass it off as something closer to the original in terms of its date.
The film is fine, I guess. I’ve certainly had a worst time at the movies than spending 90 minutes with this talented cast cracking jokes and killing zombies. If the original didn’t really do anything new, then the sequel does even less than that. It adds some new characters – but really only Zoey Deutch’s Madison leaves an impact. She’s bobble headed bimbo who has spent years living at the mall in the Pinkberry freezer, who joins up with Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) and Columbus (Jessie Eisenberg) a month after Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Breslin) run out on the pair of them – Wichita because she isn’t sure she wants to stay in a relationship with Columbus, and Little Rock because she’s tired of Tallahassee treating her like a kid. Little Rock then runs off with Berkeley – a pot smoking, guitar playing hippie – leaving Wichita in the dust, who then returns to her old partners to try and track down Little Rock, and have lots of awkward conversations with Columbus and Madison.
Deutch is a delight I must say – so much of a delight in fact that you almost forget how what a sexist caricature she is playing here. Some have complained that the film is misogynistic – and while I can see that (and not just because of Madison) – I also think that’s giving the film too much credit. It was odd watching the film the day after I heard Harrelson on WTF with Marc Maron, saying he kept rejecting scripts over the years for a Zombieland sequel until they found the right one – because this strikes me as a particularly lazy script, and for the most part it seems the cast is going through the motions as well. The whole thing feels warmed over – and while it’s impossible to truly hate a film with Harrelson, Eisenberg and Stone sniping at each other – even half-heartedly, and there are moments that quite good (I quite like Thomas Middleditch’s cameo – although casting Luke Wilson as his scene partner seems like a missed opportunity to get McConaughey back for a True Detective reunion).
In total, Zombieland: Double Tap kind of feels like the sequel to Zombieland we should have gotten in 2011 – and forgotten all about by now. If you’re going to bring everyone back 10 years later to do a sequel to a movie that does have a following – but is mostly just half remembered – you should probably have more of a reason to exist that Zombieland Double Tap does. You likely won’t hate the film – but it won’t have you waiting anxiously for 2029’s Zombieland: Triple Tap.

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