Zombieland: Double Tap is pretty good (with caveats)

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Jeff Turner
CONTRIBUTOR

Zombieland: Double Tap stars Abigail Breslin, Emma Stone, Woody Harrelson, and Jessie Eisenberg. Photo courtesy of imdb.com.

It’s probably been a while since you last watched “Zombieland,” the 2009 hit zombie film meets Judd Apatow-esque comedy. Christened a “dumb Shaun of the Dead” by some, the film is pretty watchable and entertaining for the most part, good but not great. The sequel, “Double Tap,” coming ten years later, from the same people, is of dubious necessity but also of sturdy craftsmanship, like a massage chair.

In “Double Tap,” Columbus, Tallahassee, Little Rock and Wichita (Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrellson, Abigail Breslin and Emma Stone) have all holed up in the White House as the zombie apocalypse continues to rage across the country. All have settled into a form of domesticity, with the men becoming overbearing. Columbus proposes to Wichita, and Tallahassee takes it upon himself to take on the role of a father figure to Little Rock. This leads to Wichita and Little Rock hightailing it and hitting the road, but then Little Rock runs off and Wichita has to go back to Columbus and Tallahassee.

The plot is, by the numbers, mostly used as a vehicle for the jokes, and yet I laughed. The movie is consistently funny, and the cast share an easy chemistry, with the newcomers committing to the material. Zoey Deutch stands out as Madison, a ditsy blonde that Columbus and Tallahassee pick up while scouting. She is committed, enthusiastic and so sincere that every scene she is in lights up.

There is a lot of CGI blood present throughout the film, but it’s executed in a way where it’s not too garish or noticeable—not ideal, but certainly workable. A lot of the set pieces are generally exciting, with a good sense of where the characters are, strong editing and a real feeling of motion.

The script, written by returning writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, is efficient in setting up and delivering punchlines, and the callbacks rarely feel forced. There is, however, a recurring trend worth noting in a lot of these movies. It’s interesting that actors like Eisenberg and Stone are paired together as love interests in a movie like this—it was something visible in “Walking Dead,” as well, with the relationship between Glenn and Maggie, an example that, along with “Double Tap,” features normally homely men dating out of their league. In a lot of recent zombie media, the apocalypse seems remarkably efficient at exclusively killing attractive men and ugly women. This is not a “deal breaker” so much as an observation.

Director Ruben Fleischer’s track record is spotty at best. The first “Zombieland” is a strong work, but he has struggled to replicate that success in the years since, hitting bottom with the turgid “Venom” last year. Returning to this universe has handed him another good film to place on his resume, which will perhaps lead to a third one—but who can say.

“Double Tap” is not great, but the operative word here is ‘cozy.’ The movie is cozy and fun; it’s funny; it has good pacing; and it doesn’t overstay its welcome.

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