Zombieland: Double Tap (2019) Review
TIME TO NUT UP OR SHUT UP!
Back in 2009, director Ruben Fleischer released the movie Zombieland, a post-apocalyptic zombie comedy movie, with the release being his theatrical directorial debut in film. The movie, which starred the talents of Jessie Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, and Abagail Breslin, followed the story a geeky college kid making his way through the zombie apocalypse, meeting three strangers along the way and together take an extended road trip across the Southwestern portion of the United States in an attempt to find a sanctuary free of the zombies that run amok across the nation aimlessly. Zombieland was met with both critical and commercial success, with moviegoers creating a cult following for the movie and, while it didn’t make a massive splash at the box office that year, the film was able to manage to cultivate roughly $102 million at the box office against its $23.6 million production budget. Now, a decade after its initial release, Sony / Columbia Pictures and director Ruben Fleischer present the belated sequel to the 2009 film with the release of Zombieland: Double Tap. Is this long-awaited sequel worth the wait or is it a little “too little, too late” to fully capitalized on the fun of the original project?
Continuing their survival through an age of a Zombie-apocalypse as a makeshift family, Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), Wichita (Emma Stone), and Little Rock (Abagail Breslin) have found their balance as a team, settling into the now vacant White House to spend some safe quality time with one another as they figure out their next move. However, spend time at the Presidential residents raise some uncertainty as Columbus proposes to Wichita, which freaks out the independent, lone warrior out, while Little Rock starts to feel the need to be on her own. The women suddenly decide to escape in the middle of the night, leaving the men concerned about Little Rock, who’s quickly joined by Berkley (Avan Jogia), a hitchhiking hippie on his way to place called Babylon, a fortified commune that’s supposed to be safe haven against the zombies of the land. Hitting the road to retrieved their loved one, Tallahassee and Columbus meet Madison (Zoey Deutch), a dim-witted survivor who takes an immediate liking to Columbus, complicating his relationship with Wichita.
THE GOOD / THE BAD
To be honest, I didn’t catch Zombieland when it first got released (in theaters) back in 2009. Of course, the movie pre-dated a lot of the pop culture phenomenon of the usage of zombies-esque as the main antagonist (i.e Game of Thrones, The Maze Runner trilogy, The Walking Dead, World War Z, The Last of Us, etc.), but I’ve never been keen on the whole “Zombie” craze as others are. So, despite the comedy talents on the project, I didn’t see Zombieland….until it came to TV a year or so later. Surprisingly, however, I did like it. Naturally, the zombie apocalypse thing was fine (just wasn’t my thing), but I really enjoyed the film’s humor-based comedy throughout much of the feature. With the exception of 2004’s Shaun of the Dead, majority of the past (and future) endeavors of this narrative have always been serious, so it was kind of refreshing to see comedic levity being brought into the mix. Plus, the film’s cast was great, with the four main leads being one of the film’s greatest assets. As mentioned above, Zombieland didn’t make much of a huge splash at the box office, but certainly gained a strong cult following, including myself, in the following years.
Flash forward a decade after its release and Zombieland finally got a sequel with Zombieland: Double Tap, the central focus of this review post. Given how the original film ended, it was clear that a sequel to the 2009 movie was indeed possible, but it seemed like it was in no rush as the years kept passing by. So, I was quite surprised to hear that Zombieland was getting a sequel, but also a bit not surprised as well as Hollywood’s recent endeavors have been of the “belated sequels” variety; finding mixed results on each of these projects. I did see the film’s movie trailer, which definitely was what I was looking for in this Zombieland 2 movie, with Eisenberg, Harrelson, Stone, Breslin returning to reprise their respective characters again. I knew I wasn’t expecting anything drastically different from the 2009 movie, so I entered Double Tap with good frame of my mind and somewhat eagerly expecting to catch up with this dysfunctional zombie killing family. Unfortunately, while I did see the movie a week after its release, my review for it fell to the wayside as my life in retail got a hold of me during the holidays as well as being sick for a good week and half after seeing the movie. So, with me still playing “catch up” I finally have the time to share my opinions on Zombieland: Double Tap. And what are they? Well, to be honest, my opinions on the film was good. Despite some problems here and there, Zombieland: Double Tap is definitely a fun sequel that’s worth the decade long wait. It doesn’t “redefine” the Zombie genre interest or outmatch its predecessor, but this next chapter of Zombieland still provides an entertaining entry….and that’s all that matters.
Returning to the director’s chair is director Ruben Fleischer, who helmed the first Zombieland movie as well as other film projects such as 30 Minutes or Less, Gangster Squad, and Venom. Thus, given his previous knowledge of shaping the first film, it seems quite suitable (and obvious) for Fleischer to direct this movie and (to that affect), Double Tap succeeds. Of course, with the first film being a “cult classic” of sorts, Fleischer probably knew that it wasn’t going to be easy to replicate the same formula in this sequel, especially since the 10-year gap between the films. Luckily, Fleischer certainly excels in bringing the same type of comedic nuances and cinematic aspects that made the first Zombieland enjoyable to Double Tap; creating a second installment that has plenty of fun and entertainment throughout. A lot of the familiar / likeable aspects of the first film, including the witty banter between four main lead characters, continues to be at the forefront of this sequel; touching upon each character in a amusing way, with plenty of nods and winks to the original 2009 film that’s done skillfully and not so much unnecessarily ham-fisted. Additionally, Fleischer keeps the film running at a brisk pace, with the feature having a runtime of 99 minutes in length (one hour and thirty-nine minutes), which means that the film never feels sluggish (even if it meanders through some secondary story beats / side plot threads), with Fleischer ensuring a companion sequel that leans with plenty of laughter and thrills that are presented snappy way (a sort of “thick and fast” notion). Speaking of which, the comedic aspect of the first Zombieland movie is well-represented in Double Tap, with Fleischer still utilizing its cast (more on that below) in a smart and hilarious by mixing comedic personalities / personas with something as serious / gravitas as fighting endless hordes of zombies every where they go. Basically, if you were a fan of the first Zombieland flick, you’ll definitely find Double Tap to your liking.
In terms of production quality, Double Tap is a good feature. Granted, much like the last film, I knew that the overall setting and background layouts weren’t going to be something elaborate and / or expansive. Thus, my opinion of this subject of the movie’s technical presentation isn’t that critical. Taking that into account, Double Tap does (at least) does have that standard “post-apocalyptic” setting of an abandoned building, cityscapes, and roads throughout the feature; littered with unmanned vehicles and rubbish. It certainly has that “look and feel” of the post-zombie world, so Double Tap’s visual aesthetics gets a solid industry standard in my book. Thus, a lot of the other areas that I usually mentioned (i.e set decorations, costumes, cinematography, etc.) fit into that same category as meeting the standards for a 2019 movie. Thus, as a whole, the movie’s background nuances and presentation is good, but nothing grand as I didn’t expect to be “wowed” over it. So, it sort of breaks even. This also extends to the film’s score, which was done by David Sardy, which provides a good musical composition for the feature’s various scenes as well as a musical song selection thrown into the mix; interjecting the various zombie and humor bits equally well.
There are some problems that are bit glaring that Double Tap, while effectively fun and entertaining, can’t overcome, which hinders the film from overtaking its predecessor. Perhaps one of the most notable criticism that the movie can’t get right is the narrative being told. Of course, the narrative in the first Zombieland wasn’t exactly the best, but still combined zombie-killing action with its combination of group dynamics between its lead characters. Double Tap, however, is fun, but messy at the same time; creating a frustrating narrative that sounds good on paper, but thinly written when executed. Thus, problem lies within the movie’s script, which was penned by Dave Callaham, Rhett Reese, and Paul Wernick, which is a bit thinly sketched in certain areas of the story, including a side-story involving Tallahassee wanting to head to Graceland, which involves some of the movie’s new supporting characters. It’s fun sequence of events that follows, but adds little to the main narrative and ultimately could’ve been cut completely. Thus, I kind of wanted see Double Tap have more a substance within its narrative. Heck, they even had a decade long gap to come up with a new yarn to spin for this sequel…and it looks like they came up a bit shorter than expected.
Another point of criticism that I have about this is that there aren’t enough zombie action bits as there were in the first Zombieland movie. Much like the Walking Dead series as become, Double Tap seems more focused on its characters (and the dynamics that they share with each other) rather than the group facing the sparse groupings of mindless zombies. However, that was some of the fun of the first movie and Double Tap takes away that element. Yes, there are zombies in the movie and the gang is ready to take care of them (in gruesome fashion), but these mindless beings sort take a back seat for much of the film, with the script and Fleischer seemed more focused on showcasing witty banter between Columbus, Tallahassee, Wichita, and Little Rock. Of course, the ending climatic piece in the third act gives us the best zombie action scenes of the feature, but it feels a bit “too little, too late” in my opinion. To be honest, this big sequence is a little manufactured and not as fun and unique as the final battle scene in the first film. I know that sounds a bit contrive and weird, but, while the third act big fight seems more polished and staged well, it sort of feels more restricted and doesn’t flow cohesively with the rest of the film’s flow (in matter of speaking).
What’s certainly elevates these points of criticism is the film’s cast, with the main quartet lead acting talents returning to reprise their roles in Double Tap, which is absolutely the “hands down” best part of this sequel. Naturally, I’m talking about the talents of Jessie Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin in their respective roles Zombieland character roles of Columbus, Tallahassee, Wichita, and Little Rock. Of the four, Harrelson, known for his roles in Cheers, True Detective, and War for the Planet of the Apes, shines as the brightest in the movie, with dialogue lines of Tallahassee proving to be the most hilarious comedy stuff on the sequel. Harrelson certainly knows how to lay it on “thick and fast” with the character and the s**t he says in the movie is definitely funny (regardless if the joke is slightly or dated). Behind him, Eisenberg, known for his roles in The Art of Self-Defense, The Social Network, and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, is somewhere in the middle of pack, but still continues to act as the somewhat main protagonist of the feature, including being a narrator for us (the viewers) in this post-zombie apocalypse world. Of course, Eisenberg’s nervous voice and twitchy body movements certainly help the character of Columbus to be likeable and does have a few comedic timing / bits with each of co-stars. Stone, known for her roles in The Help, Superbad, and La La Land, and Breslin, known for her roles in Signs, Little Miss Sunshine, and Definitely, Maybe, round out the quartet; providing some more grown-up / mature character of the group, with Wichita and Little Rock trying to find their place in the world and how they must deal with some of the party members on a personal level. Collectively, these four are what certainly the first movie fun and hilarious and their overall camaraderie / screen-presence with each other hasn’t diminished in the decade long absence. To be it simply, these four are simply riot in the Zombieland and are again in Double Tap.
With the movie keeping the focus on the main quartet of lead Zombieland characters, the one newcomer that certainly takes the spotlight is actress Zoey Deutch, who plays the character of Madison, a dim-witted blonde who joins the group and takes a liking to Columbus. Known for her roles in Before I Fall, The Politician, and Set It Up, Deutch is a somewhat “breath of fresh air” by acting as the tagalong team member to the quartet in a humorous way. Though there isn’t much insight or depth to the character of Madison, Deutch’s ditzy / air-head portrayal of her is quite hilarious and is fun when she’s making comments to Harrelson’s Tallahassee (again, he’s just a riot in the movie).
The rest of the cast, including actor Avan Jogia (Now Apocalypse and Shaft) as Berkeley, a pacifist hippie that quickly befriends Little Rock on her journey, actress Rosario Dawson (Rent and Sin City) as Nevada, the owner of a Elvis-themed motel who Tallahassee quickly takes a shine to, and actors Luke Wilson (Legally Blonde and Old School) and Thomas Middleditch (Silicon Valley and Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie) as Albuquerque and Flagstaff, two traveling zombie-killing partners that are mimic reflections of Tallahassee and Columbus, are in minor supporting roles in Double Tap. While all of these acting talents are good and definitely bring a certain humorous quality to their characters, the characters themselves could’ve been easily expanded upon, with many just being thinly written caricatures. Of course, the movie focuses heavily on the Zombieland quartet (and newcomer Madison), but I wished that these characters could’ve been fleshed out a bit.
Lastly, be sure to still around for the film’s ending credits, with Double Tap offering up two Easter Eggs scenes (one mid-credits and one post-credit scenes). While I won’t spoil them, I do have mention that they are pretty hilarious.
It’s been awhile, but the Zombieland gang is back and are ready to hit the road once again in the movie Zombieland: Double Tap. Director Reuben Fleischer’s latest film sees the return the dysfunctional zombie-killing makeshift family of survivors for another round of bickering, banting, and trying to find their way in a post-apocalyptic world. While the movie’s narrative is a bit messy and could’ve been refined in the storyboarding process as well as having a bit more zombie action, the rest of the feature provides to be a fun endeavor, especially with Fleischer returning to direct the project, the snappy / witty banter amongst its characters, a breezy runtime, and the four lead returning acting talents. Personally, I liked this movie. I definitely found it to my liking as I laugh many times throughout the movie, with the main principal cast lending their screen presence in this post-apocalyptic zombie movie. Thus, my recommendation for this movie is favorable “recommended” as I’m sure it will please many fans of the first movie as well as to the uninitiated (the film is quite easy to follow for newcomers). While the movie doesn’t redefine what was previous done back in 2009, Zombieland: Double Tap still provides a riot of laughs with this make-shift quartet of zombie survivors; giving us give us (the viewers) fun and entertaining companion sequel to the original feature.
4.0 Out of 5 (Recommended)
Released On: October 18th, 2019
Reviewed On: January 8th, 2020
Zombieland: Double Tap is 99 minutes long and is rated R for bloody violence, language throughout, some drug and sexual content