2009’s Zombieland proved to be a surprise sleeper hit upon release – a funny, yet surprisingly deep comedy that valued character and wit over gross-out, punch-down humour. The fact a sequel has taken this long to hit screens (barring a terrible TV Pilot from a few years back) is surprising, considering the quality of the first film and the cult following it built up in the intervening years.
Now, ten years on, the stars have aligned in a way that has resulted in a sequel featuring the involvement of all the principal cast-members, screenwriters and director Ruben Fleischer. Picking up where the first film left off, the film opens with Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) taking up residence in the now-abandoned White House, living life as an oddball family of-sorts in the midst of the zombie apocalypse. But when personal issues split the group, events transpire to put them back on the road on a quest to find one of their own.
However, like so many get-together’s, there’s the risk the magic is no longer there – something which quickly becomes clear once Double Tap doubles down on the main plot. Largely inconsequential storytelling follows, despite a reasonable plethora of chuckle-some wit, gags and set-pieces scattered about. Almost episodic and bitty, the story never quite gels as new characters are introduced and dispatched before they even make an impact on the narrative.
Similarly, new threats and perilous situations are offered up and then ignored, whilst the main characters simply go through the motions in terms of their respective arcs. The eventual result at the film’s closing never feels earned, with the characters barely changed or having gone through any kind of journey (bar the actual journey across the zombie-strewn highways of the USA).
A subplot featuring Rosario Dawson as a potential lover for Tallahassee is rushed through and done in mere moments, before being dropped altogether until the big climax – wherein she is required to simply turn up for no reason and provide some Deus ex Machina. There’s also definite evidence, especially in the third act, that a lot of scenes have been cut from the finished film to ensure a 99 minute run-time, something which leaves a large obvious gap in the plot where the emotional character beats from the first film were clearly meant to be.
Luckily, the film remains watchable, largely due to the chemistry and comedic prowess shared between the central quartet. All four put in fine comic performances, whilst new arrival Madison (Zoey Deutch) lends a lot of comedic, dry scenes which add much needed funny (even if her character sadly fails to develop beyond the annoying dumb-blonde stereotype). Equally, Ruben Fleischer‘s assured but manic direction manages to keep things pacy and visually engaging throughout (though it hardly fails to set the world alight like the previous film did), whilst a mid-credits stinger provides perhaps the funniest scene in the entire movie (no spoilers from us).
Whilst there is some joy to be had in revisiting the world of Zombieland, the resulting sequel we get here is hardly one worth rushing out for, nor is it likely to thrill beyond the initial nostalgic glow one gets when things kick off. The plot feels largely unfocused and bitty, building to a rushed climax that feels like an afterthought, whilst the new characters and additions to the world mean diddly-squat in the grand scheme of things.
Dead on arrival? Hardly. But not looking too healthy either.