With DNA infused with movie metaness and blood (lots and lots of blood) that runs with the spirit of video games, Zombieland 2: Double Tap knows how to do a sequel: make tweaks, aim for bigger and better, but don’t mess with a successful formula.
The 2009 original was a perfectly enclosed tale that seems an unnecessary and unlikely candidate for a sequel given the future paths of its stars. It stands almost near Shaun of the Dead at the pinnacle of the zomedy genre – neck snappingly smartmouthed, explosive chemistry between its Academy Award-nominated and winning cast, screen-splattering comedy gore, and one of the greatest cameos in recent memory. It’s no bad thing to say we get that all and more again in part two. Director Ruben Fleischer returns, as do original writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, who most recently wrote the Deadpool films, which clown around in very much the same action comedy playground.
Even if it’s been ten years in our world, its only been a few in Zombieland. The original gang, Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), and Wichita (Emma Stone) all look exactly the same, while Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) has grown up. In meta voiceover (“Unless you’re watching in a 4D theatre, you have no idea how bad Zombieland smells”) we’re told how the unconventional family has spent its time, killing their way across the country to set up camp at America’s most famous home, The White House. In the meantime the zombies have been evolving into different types, including “the ninja”, while the group’s relationships have been evolving too. Columbus and Wichita have settled down – which might feel more like being trapped for one of them – and Tallahassee has taken on more of a dad role to Little Rock, his joy at killing zombies matched by his over-the-top protectiveness of who he sees as his adoptive daughter. Columbus still has his rules to survive by, but it’s not long before the girls revert to their own rule of “Don’t get close to anyone” and take off. This leads to more road trip action that introduces us to the hilariously dumb Madison (Zoey Deutch), a kickass Rosario Dawson, a hippie commune, big set pieces, last minutes saves, numerous call backs, and lots and lots of zombie kills, including the great little side sketches showing the “Zombie Kill of the Year” winners.
Eisenberg hones his performance and Harrelson is brilliantly caustic, but Breslin struggles to make any kind of an impact. Really though, this is Stone’s time, returning to her comedic roots that are every bit as good as her dramatic roles, with perfect comedy timing and superb facial reactions. She’s only run close by Deutch in a role that is surely funnier that what was originally on the page. Fleischer is in his element in the balance of action and comedy (which wasn’t quite there in last year’s Venom), and he has nice control of the pacing throughout, smartly avoiding the bloat that most films suffer from right now, running at a lean 93 minutes. Zombieland 2: Double Tap is just as fun the second time round.
Zombieland: Double Tap is in cinemas from 17th October through Sony Pictures.