Zombieland: Double Tap film review: back for gore ten years later

Does the Zombieland sequel still have the original’s magic?

Double Tap begins with Jesse Eisenberg’s know it all hero Columbus marvelling that we’ve shown up to find out what’s going on with the Zombieland survivors ten years on, that trademark Reese-Wernick meta humour (the duo joined by returning director Ruben Fleischer and new co-writer Dave Callaham) trying to paper over the looming question of: why? The original movie was a smart, gory and funny highlight of that late-00s zom-com boom but do we need another one?

Well, no, we don’t, as it turns out, but there is of course a strong argument to be made that watching this fantastic cast regroup to bicker, grow and take out zombies in creative ways is justification enough to buy a ticket. It is the most compelling one provided by the film itself and it’s certainly fun watching Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin back in character.

The main problem is the script, which starts promisingly enough with a now teenage Little Rock (Breslin) dying to break free, find people her own age and meet a boy who isn’t a substitute for a family member. When she and Wichita (Stone) ditch the guys in the White House (the latter’s flight prompted by a marriage proposal from Columbus), the stage is set for another cross-country road trip dodging the undead to save the teen from the pacifist clutches of a hot smug hippie (Avan Jogia).

The opening 15-20 minutes have a lot of laughs (almost definitely helped along by a healthy dose of nostalgia) and a nicely nasty update on the zombies’ evolution, but as the story progresses it becomes increasingly clear that there really isn’t much going on and, crucially, the laughs dry up. So much of the humour is based on self-referencing or relying on Harrelson to go big (and he does, god bless him), and the MVP turns out to be series newcomer Zoey Deutch, who works so relentlessly hard to make nice but dim mallrat Madison funny and weird that it starts to feel at odds with how much the film and other characters are determined to make you hate her. Rosario Dawson is great but she could play that role in her sleep, and the film’s dogged commitment to Elvis material peaks with Eisenberg’s adorable glee at finally finding shoes that fit him.

The action and gore are disappointingly fine too, with the exception of one excellent brawl with some high profile new faces, and the final act is so rushed and unpredictable that it feels more like something from a hurried-into-production sequel than something that took a decade to come together.

And yet, if you like this gang, there is fun to be had. The stars still have great chemistry, there are some good splatter moments, and there are a fair few laughs that very nearly tip this review into three-star territory. But the whole thing is so lacklustre, an at-best amiable and entirely forgettable endeavour, that it’s hard not to resent this missed opportunity.