Zombieland, while not a film to make a lot of best lists nearly a decade ago, was a certain triumph of less serious efforts. A zombie film, like many in the genre, that derives its purpose largely from embracing the truly bonkers circumstances and what might “really” be on people’s minds. It was a screwy movie with no delusions and one that simply wanted to have a good time while offering up a few original spins.
Zombieland: Double Tap purports to expand on that irreverent humor and give audiences a chance to reconnect with characters that, somewhat surprisingly, grabbed their attention. Instead, the film throws together the most hollow of excuses to continue our adventure, dismantles our characters and openly mocks them for cheap gags, and throws in such comedic treasures as dumb blondes and doppelgangers.
We enter the film with our heroes – Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), Wichita (Emma Stone), and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) – moving into The White House… because why wouldn’t you? We zoom ahead about a year through the standard montage, and though Columbus and Wichita are in a relationship, Columbus’ ideas toward marriage scare off Wichita. Meanwhile, Little Rock is sick of being treated like a kid. Thus, Wichita and Little Rock take off to parts unknown, leaving Tallahassee and Columbus to fend for themselves.
Tallahassee and Columbus stumble upon Madison (Zoey Deutch), who has been living alone in a mall, and bring her home just in time for Wichita to return to explain that Little Rock ditched her and took off with hippie, weirdo Berkeley (Avan Jogia) and was making her way to some sort of commune. Now we’ve got our road trip/quest and plenty of hilarity to ensue as Wichita wants Columbus back, sort of, but is faced with Madison and her perky airheadedness.
It’s hard to say things have gone wrong in the setup, apart from the sophomoric injection of a ditz to point at and the lazy excuse to move at all, but when the trip doesn’t actually deliver laughs it’s hard to continue to play along. Where the first film is practically a video game, laced with clever dialogue and amusing rules that pop right up on screen, the sequel is a lot more like a 90-minute trailer for something that never appears and isn’t fun or funny anyway.
Where the first film played with its own concepts and circumstances, buoyed by the quirky characters it established, to derive comedy, Zombieland: Double Tap simply throws gags into a mix whether they have a chance to land, or make sense, or not. Moreover, the gag and/or people we want to get a laugh out of are given preference over even the characters we’ve come to know as long as it gets the plot where we want it. The expectation is clearly that audiences are willing to suspend disbelief when we’re dealing with a largely nonsensical situation anyway, but if you can’t even believably continue forward with the characters, why bother?
The film manages a few moments worth watching, and a handful of small laughs, but it’s mostly a waste of time. It may well call to mind The Dead Don’t Die, as those who have seen that film, especially considering that potential for wall-breaking here, might expect people to begin declaring their motivation as being a result of having read the script.