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‘Zombieland: Double Tap’ Review: If You Loved The First Movie, You’ll Love This One

Zombieland: Double Tap
Photo Credit: Jessica Miglio ©

To call Zombieland: Double Tap “worth the wait” implies there was a wait to be had.

Reuben Fleischer’s 2009 action/horror/comedy never promised a sequel, but like any hit film there was a vocal (albeit small) demand for a follow-up. However, none came and Fleischer’s film eventually faded from consciousness and memory.

That is, of course, until out of nowhere Fleischer announced his sequel (under the most perfect title ever) with a poster and release date earlier this year. In so doing, Fleischer awakened a nostalgia for the United States of Zombieland that many fans of the original, myself included, forgot they had.

Even if Double Tap followed up Zombieland immediately, it would still have remarkably little to live up to. The story of these films is not half as important as the time we get to spend with the four core characters. As long as Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, Woody Harrelson, and Abigail Breslin all come away with some great one-liners, and nasty zombie kills, everybody would more or less walk out satisfied.

However, as if to underline the point, Double Tap‘s 10 year gap makes the film feel like an event we are lucky to partake in. It primes the sequel for the easy layup of being the best version of itself by not messing with its chemistry and just being a Zombieland movie.

What that entails is practically a case study of Reuben Fleischer’s specific wheelhouse. It means a near-jovial tone undercutting a horrific premise like an undead post-apocalyptic America. It involves more wildly entertaining action set pieces that are as creative as they are satisfying. But most importantly, it means an all-star cast with unbelievable on-screen chemistry having the time of their lives while simultaneously elevating a passable script of deliberately shallow characters and mostly B-grade dialogue.

Where Double Tap finds ways to keep itself fresh is in the introduction of new characters for the main cast to bounce off of. Zoey Deutch steals every scene as Columbus’ (Eisenberg) adorably clueless new girlfriend, Madison. Avan Jogia plays up his naturally relaxed charisma as Berkley, a millennial hippie/pacifist whom Little Rock (Breslin) falls for. Nevada (Rosario Dawson) is a new love interest for Tallahassee (Harrelson) but also dials into Dawson’s default nature of being the smartest and savviest person in any given room.

All of our core characters are proudly one-dimensional on paper, but are given overwhelming life by their respective actors. Stone is given the most to work via Wichita’s finicky impulses and ever-present inner conflict. Harrelson, however, steals the movie with how effortless Tallahassee feels every second he’s on-screen. Like any great Eisenberg role, Columbus doubles down (double taps?) on his innate awkwardness and insecurity and structures a character arc around it. Breslin is the only one who occasionally feels less happy to be there, but she also shares the screen with her three costars less than anyone in the film.

Not only is the cast stacked with four Oscar-nominees (and one winner), but even now, these are some of the biggest stars in Hollywood. None of them needed to make this film, but the fact that they did manifestly speaks to how they delight in playing these characters as much as we have relished watching them. It is difficult to criticize a film both aware of and overjoyed to be exactly what it is.

Rarely do we see a film so in-tune with its main characters’ sensibilities that it does not even attempt to justify its existence beyond the obvious inherent “why not?” It is rarer still for that tactic to land as charmingly as it does here. The added fact that this was green-lit and produced in complete secret until the moment Fleischer chose to announce it makes it a kind of cinematic event we may never have again—even if it’s nothing more than a clunky B-grade horror-comedy.

I can buy into a lot of films solely on the promise of the great time its cast and crew have in making it. Zombieland: Double Tap is nothing if not a testament to its four stars’ sheer hilarity and on-set camaraderie standing the test of time. It virtually flouts the idea that comedy sequels should be anything new by indulging its audience in a brisk 90 minutes of nostalgia and fan service. For a fan of Zombieland since the beginning, Double Tap passes its director and cast’s unbridled joy right on to their audience.

Zombieland: Double Tap is now playing in theaters nationwide.


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