Zombieland isn’t exactly a classic. It was a sleeper hit in 2009, it helped further boost the rising stars of Jesse Eisenberg and Emma Stone, it was a breakthrough for writers Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick as well as director Ruben Fleischer and has slowly grown a fanbase through the last decade. With all that, that’s not to say that Zombieland is a bad movie. Far from it, the movie holds up surprisingly well as a blend of sweet and cute tone mixed with R-rated comedy. You might not be able to quote a single line from Zombieland, but we all had a great laugh at the Bill Murray cameo. All of this is to say that Zombieland: Double Tap is not coming back to sacred ground like other comedy sequels Zoolander 2 or Anchorman 2. Instead, the original creative team and cast of actors have reunited for another trip that’s surprisingly delightful even if in never feels necessary. Rather than trying to reinvent what made the first movie work or offer a bold new approach, Double Tap is a collection of goofy gags and endearing new characters that make the sequel a nice companion to the original.
We pick up ten years after the original, Columbus (Eisenberg), Wichita (Stone), Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) are still together and have set up shop in the White House, but tensions are starting to build. Columbus wants to marry Wichita, but she’s not so sure if she wants to make that commitment. Little Rock, who’s bristling under Tallahasse’s well-meaning parentage, is looking to find friends of her own age. And just like that the sisters decide to leave, but after picking up a pacifist hippie, Berkeley (Avan Jogia), Little Rock and the hippie take the car and head off to parts unknown. Wichita soon comes back to the White House looking for some help only to find that Columbus is now shacking up with the ditzy Madison (Zoey Deutch), who he and Tallahassee found surviving at the mall. The trio then heads out on a new road trip to renunite with Little Rock as evolved, harder-to-kill zombies continue to stalk the wasteland.
Double Tap largely has the feel of a movie where everyone got back together because they had a good time making the first movie and the studio wanted a sequel. When we check back with these characters, it doesn’t feel like they have ten more years of history under their belts. With the exception of Little Rock now being in her early twenties rather than a tween, Double Tap is a movie that could have easily been made a couple years after the original. No one really is swinging for the fences here because everyone’s in their comfort zone, and oddly enough that kind of works. Wernick and Reese still know how to tell good jokes, Fleischer’s action is passable and the cast continues to gel even if it’s clear the movie doesn’t really know what to do with Little Rock so she’s barely more than a plot device. The arc of the first Zombieland is that you have these four misfits who don’t really trust anyone, and they learn to become a family. Double Tap doesn’t have that arc and instead feels like a smatters of fun ideas that were cobbled into a script. And that might sound bad, and sure none of the ideas build to anything, but they’re fun enough when taken piece by piece.
The strongest new element of the entire film is by far the addition of Zoey Deutch as Madison. She’s shined in films before, but in Double Tap she’s a principle scene stealer. Rather than just playing a typical airhead or into the dumb blonde stereotype, Deutch uses her adept comic timing and wit to make Madison her own. As mainstream studio comedies die off, I’m unsure if Deutch will get the breakthrough role she deserves. Which is a shame because Deutch can absolutely carry a studio comedy with ease.
Zombieland: Double Tap is an odd throwback of sorts to a dying breed of studio comedies. But what makes Double Tap a little remarkable is that comedy sequels are usually bad. They often can’t recapture what made the original work, and Double Tap succeeds by not overthinking it. The original Zombieland doesn’t cast a long shadow, so Double Tap is free to just slap together a bunch of lighthearted ideas and call it a movie. And sure, it doesn’t have much on its mind, but it isn’t exactly brain-dead either. While comedy sequels aren’t usually that effective, Zombieland: Double Tap delivers another mishmash of delightful, goofy gags and charming new characters for a overall solid second trip.