ZOMBIELAND 2: DOUBLE TAP *** USA 2019 Dir: Ruben Fleischer. 99 mins
Zombies have evolved. There are Homers (the dumb ones), Hawkings (the smart ones), and Ninjas (the sneaky, scary ones). Our ragtag team… hasn’t really evolved. There’s Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), the lone wolf and
wildcard, Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), the awkward kid who loves rules, Wichita (Emma Stone), the badass who doesn’t get attached, and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin), the baby. Ten years have passed in our time, but only seven in ZOMBIELAND years. Little Rock is 18 and itching to get out of the nest—the nest being the Whitehouse, where the group has been holding up since clearing the property in an epic zombie shoot ‘em up a few years prior.
With Little Rock feeling the call of the wild (read: boys her age), and Columbus springing a proposal on Wichita, the girls decide it’s time to split. They leave a note and hit the road.
This move is what kickstarts the rest of the story, but it’s pretty hard to believe. Their number one rule used to be “Don’t get attached” but they’re abandoning people who are, at this point, family. More than making them seem hardened, it makes them unlikeable.
A month later, Columbus is still moping over his girlfriend. But then we’re introduced to the most likeable character of the entire franchise: Madison (a captivating Zoey Deutch). They meet her in an abandoned mall where she’s spent the last few years living alone in Pinkberry freezer. She’s bubbly, horny, and stupid—but Deutch’s performance far exceeds clichéd expectations. Her comedic timing is impeccable and she brings life to the barren, zombie-infested wasteland. Madison outshines the gloom of discontent that surrounds our central quartet.
Madison and Columbus hook up, which is almost exactly when Wichita decides to reappear. Little Rock has run off with a hot, pot-smoking, pacifist and they’re on their way to Graceland (because why the hell not) without any guns. They hop into a minivan—much to Tallahassee’s over-charged chagrin—and head out to save the couple.
The rest of the film is peppered with some great jokes, some curious acting choices (particularly on Harrelson’s part, who seems like he’s aiming for comedy but sometimes misses the mark), and a great cameo featuring Thomas Middleditch and Luke Wilson—who, like Deutch, have a blast with their characters, and let the audience have some fun, too.
It’s easy to forgive some things in ZOMBIELAND. The never-ending supply of ammo, electricity, and food. The fact they introduce a breed of super sneaky zombies and don’t use them a single time throughout the film (which might have provided some tension, which this film severely lacks). But the absence of anything approaching love or fondness between our central characters makes it difficult for us to have any fondness for them. Remember when Ed sacrificed himself in SHAUN OF THE DEAD? Comedies can still make us feel something—ZOMBIELAND is just a little one-note.
The writers of this film are the same team behind Deadpool 1 & 2, and I’d argue that even the Merc with a Mouth has more developed relationships with the people he loves. The years of development hell this film went through is written all over the screen, and clearly character and relationship development were substituted for jokey banter and a few action scenes—which, while expertly shot, take the heart out of an otherwise entertaining zombie comedy.
Review by Julia Lynch