Review: ZOMBIELAND: DOUBLE TAP

Raucous fun combines well with splatter comic horror.

You’ll have a rollicking good time, even though the sentiment for this life after the zombie apocalypse sequel is thimble deep. The funny and logically practical rules of survival are recited, as Woody, Jesse, Emma, and Abigail once again make a great ensemble worthy of another blood-soaked outing.

In a zombie apocalypse, where would be safer than the White House?

Since the events of the 2009 film, our expert zombie killers have honed their craft. The sarcastic foursome work together like a well-oiled machine taking out the undead with ruthless precision, even though it’s a pretty nasty business. Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) and Wichita (Emma Stone) are now an item. Their heavily-armed clan, rounded out by Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) have taken up residence in, of all places, the White House. And lovebirds Columbus and Wichita lay their heads in the Lincoln bedroom, of course. But when the neurotic Columbus asks her to marry him, Wichita gets cold feet and, together with the stir-crazy Little Rock, hits road to find greener pastures.

On the rebound, Columbus encounters the air-headed Madison (a wonderful Zoey Deutch), and while on the road, Little Rock and Wichita run into roaming pacifist Berkeley (Avan Jogia). Naturally, Woody and Columbus have to go on a rescue mission plying their particular zombie-fighting skills along the way. But, to their surprise, a new kind of mutated zombie has emerged that’s a whole lot harder to kill than your average flesh-eater.

Zoey Deutch makes a great new addition to the group.

The colorful combination of computer generated and practical effects gleefully celebrates carnage as zombies of all stripes fall in sloppy, decaying, smelly piles. What sets the “Zombieland” universe apart from your garden variety tale is its hyped-up, zany self-aware humor. Fans of the original will remember Columbus’ rules that faithfully guide him, and often those in his company, to safety. Limber up viewer, “Double Tap” delivers plenty of entertaining kills, and more than one bloody bit of enjoyable hilarity.

Any sequel has to fight hard to find its own identity, and it’s understandably difficult to repeat the world-building of the first film. “Double Tap” feels like a middle installment in a trilogy in that it spends time with the endearing characters, who are having literally the time of their lives, exploring and confronting a deadly menace with a joke and a sly smile. The shock and horror of the apocalypse has worn off, and the intrepid zombie-hunters let loose irreverently tearing down the strictures of the old society in favor of a let-it-all-hang-out new world. And, at one point, they are confronted with one group’s attempt to remake society in the most idealistic, but impossible way imaginable.

It’s great to see Abigail Breslin once again manning a machine gun.

To reconcile incongruities, all it takes merely a line of random dialogue to explain why they still have power (something about hydroelectric) or how someone might have survived (a cold freezer is, apparently, a good place to hide), and it’s off to shooting a flesh-eater in the head repeatedly for sport. Missing is the emotion that gave Tallahassee definition or made Columbus let down his rule-based defenses to reveal his inner sadness. I suspect that most audiences won’t care, because hanging out with these hip men and women is well-worth the price of admission.

At the end of it all, I was ready for another episode that combines the fly-by-the-seat of your pants lively exuberance with some pointed satire that effectively made the original film a cut above.

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