October 2, 2022
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Life & Culture

Review: Fleshed-out characters revive cult classic

Zombieland: Double Tap

Columbia Pictures

Rule No. 32: Enjoy the little things. “Zombieland: Double Tap,” the longawaited sequel to the 2009 cult classic “Zombieland,” has finally hit theaters, and it offers the same action-comedy experience. Ruben Fleisher returns to direct alongside a starstudded cast that brings the same infectious energy it did 10 years ago. Fans of the first film will not be let down by the hilarity on display in “Double Tap.”

“Double Tap” continues the story with the gang from the first film taking shelter at the White House. But the tension ramps up when Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) decides to find companionship with another group of people. With the incredible cast returning for the sequel, one might worry that the cast and crew would not give the same effort that they did for the original. Fortunately, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin, Jesse Eisenberg and Woody Harrelson continue to have great rapport with one another. Harrelson’s Tallahassee is given most of the screen time in this film, and he lights up every scene he’s in. It feels like a fun throwback to the original while also letting Harrelson take this character to new places through his relationship with Little Rock.

The characters in the film acknowledge the silliness of the zombie apocalypse more in this film than they did in the first. “Double Tap” writers Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese cowrote the “Deadpool” films, which opened them up to writing more meta humor. Columbus’ (Eisenberg) narration breaks the fourth wall to an almost excessive degree during “Double Tap.” It doesn’t always work, but when it does, it’s very effective. 

While Columbus and Tallahassee are a joy to watch, Wichita (Stone) is a bit less exciting. This might be because of Stone’s shift in appearance and public persona since 2009. It’s tough to picture Stone as the careless Wichita after seeing her portray more serious characters over the past several years. This isn’t entirely her fault, as the script doesn’t give Stone as much screen time as it does the others. Breslin’s Little Rock drives much of the film’s plot. When Breslin is on screen she serves the plot well, but her performance is not as memorable as it was in the first film. 

Sequels often falter when they include joke characters that don’t succeed at providing comic relief. Fortunately, almost all the new characters in “Double Tap” are a joy to behold, especially Zoey Deutch as Madison. Madison is an overexaggerated caricature, but she works great within the “Zombieland” universe, and she almost never fails to provide comedic relief. Along with that, Luke Wilson and Thomas Middleditch make appearances in the film that provide perhaps the funniest moments in the entire movie. Avan Jogia’s role as Little Rock’s crush, Berkeley, is minor, but when he’s onscreen, he provides several music-related opportunities for comedy. The only character that doesn’t add much to the film is Rosario Dawson’s Nevada, who feels like she got most of her scenes cut out of the film.

“Double Tap” maintains the tone of the first film, but it sometimes uses callbacks to the original as a crutch. Along with that, the third act of the film is poorly edited and doesn’t provide a satisfying emotional payoff. The final battle of “Double Tap” feels like it can’t decide between emotional moments, comedy or action, and the special effects often look like they came from a cartoon. 

Though “Double Tap” contains many of the same story beats and jokes as its predecessor, the characters manage to put a smile on viewers’ faces. Like the first, it sets itself apart from other forms of zombie media because of its self-aware, comedic tone. Even though the film isn’t always operating at 100%, the highs are so high that the viewer wants to come back for more. “Double Tap” is a worthy successor to the first film that reminds the audience to enjoy the little things.