Review: Zombieland: Double Tap is One of the Funniest Films of the Year
Zombieland: Double Tap is a reference to Columbus’ (Jesse Eisenberg) second rule for survival in a post-apocalyptic world overrun by zombies. Rule No. 2 Double Tap means making sure the zombie is dead by shooting it twice in the head, maybe more (don’t get stingy with your bullets!). It’s appropriate, then, that the sequel to the 2009 hit zomedy makes sure that, if the first film didn’t deliver enough laughs, the second one surely will. And it kills it. Double Tap is one of the funnest and funniest films of the year.
Set basically in real time about 10 years after the original, Double Tap brings back the old gang of Columbus, Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), Wichita (Emma Stone), and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin), who’s now a full-grown adult. They’ve survived the past decade and made sport of killing zombies, with the opening scenes showing them making their way to the White House in a whack-a-zombie free-for-all that reminds you of just how gory—and fun—the original was.
And the original was, well, pretty original. It turned the zombie genre on its ear with its dark, gruesome humor, unique characters, and creative visuals. Columbus’ narration coupled with stylized graphics made Zombieland feel like a video game. It was a fresh take on the popular zombie genre, and instead of reinventing the wheel, Double Tap doubles down on the winning formula.
Gruesome and gory humor? Check. With zombie-killing pretty much de rigueur, our heroes now aim to get creative with their kills, with one running joke featuring candidates for Zombie Kill of the Year. There are also new and improved zombies, an upgrade from the shambling horrors of the first film. Dubbed T-800s after The Terminator, these new breed of zombies are harder to kill and keep on coming. Double tapping isn’t quite enough to put these apex predators down.
Unique and lovable characters? Check. The cast adds Zoey Deutch as the pink-clad Madison, an archetypal dumb blonde who’s managed to survive for 10 years by hiding in a mall freezer. Madison is a full-on, post-apocalyptic Elle Woods, perpetually clueless, indefatigably chipper, with rare moments of genius. She’s a stark contrast to the morose and sarcastic Wichita, who survived with Little Rock prior to the events of the first film by not getting too attached.
It’s this deliberate keeping of emotional distance that creates the conflict in the film, as Wichita decides she and Columbus, who hit it off at the end of Zombieland, have gotten too close and the sisters once again hit the road and try to go things on their own. Things get complicated when Little Rock, who’s been craving a connection of her own, meets and runs off with the utterly pretentious pacifist Berkeley (Avan Jogia) in search of the fabled pacifist utopia of Babylon.
Rosario Dawson is Nevada, who has surprisingly managed to survive despite living in a brightly lit hut clad in neon lights. Luke Wilson and Thomas Middleditch are Albuquerque and Flagstaff, respectively, who are mirror images of Tallahassee and Columbus. Double Tap is a self-aware parody of the genre that even parodies itself, and one of the film’s best moments is when the two pairs meet.
Screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, who wrote the first film and went on to make Deadpool, are joined by Dave Callaham, creator of The Expendables. One of the important things in a zombie apocalypse story is to have strong characters that audiences are supposed to root for and the writers hit the bullseye with Double Tap’s motley crew. Everyone is lovable and funny, including the new additions, especially Madison. Her perennially positive mood is so incongruous with the end of the world that it’s refreshing.
It’s precisely this sense of positivity and cheer that makes Double Tap so much fun to watch. Compared to The Walking Dead, which has devolved to the point of nihilism, negativity, and hopelessness, Double Tap makes you understand how people can persist through a zombie-infested wasteland. It’s the people; it’s in finding one’s crew, one’s family, and making the best of a bad situation.
Madison is a monkey wrench of a third party as Wichita and Columbus are about to embark on the next chapter of their relationship. Meanwhile, Tallahassee has grown more into his role as Little Rock’s father figure, complete with an overprotective meltdown over Little Rock’s hookup with a peace-loving hippie. Everything and everyone is a caricature, including the gun-smelting commune of Babylon, which pokes fun post-apocalyptic safe havens by being so outlandishly out of touch as its inhabitants party on the roof deck of a skyscraper with recreational drugs and fireworks.
Director Ruben Fleischer, who recently directed Venom, does an excellent job juggling several character arcs while keeping the story rolling toward its inevitable, epic climax. One minor gripe would be that one type of zombie, explained at the beginning of the film in a hilarious montage, never makes an appearance. The T-800 zombie threat also doesn’t amount to much despite some ominous foreshadowing, but it’s a forgivable omission in a film that manages to be incredibly entertaining.
Zombieland: Double Tap follows the same structure as the first film and utilizes virtually the same gimmicks, including a mid-credits cameo by Bill Murray that audiences simply cannot miss. It’s a loving homage to the first film that seems redundant but there’s just way too much fun to be had, especially when it reminds us that civilized society pretty much ended in 2009. Ten years later, our little zombie-killing family has grown, giving us the foolish idea that maybe, just maybe, being a survivor in a zombie wasteland would actually be fun.