Monday, 28 October 2019

Zombieland: Double Tap ★★★★☆

Late sequels are always risky business. If you want a sure-fire cash-in on the success of a film, you need to get the sequel out quickly while interest is still high. This was the intention with Zombieland: Double Tap, with talk of a sequel beginning before the first film, was even released some 10 years ago. However, the project languished in development hell and it seemed certain that we were never going to get a sequel after all – despite the critical and commercial success of 2009’s original film.

10 years on, the four lead cast-members have reunited for the long overdue sequel. In the time since the first film, Emma Stone has become an Academy Award winner while Eisenberg was nominated in 2010 for The Social Network, so it’s pleasing to see they’ve returned to their roots for Double Tap and not become too big for their boots. The sequel picks up ten years after the original as our dysfunctional zombie-slaying family have settled in the White House. When Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) runs away with a pacifist to a hippy settlement, the gang – Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), Columbus (Eisenberg) and Wichita (Stone) – set out of a journey to protect her as the zombies evolve and become smarter, faster and seemingly indestructible.

Zombieland: Double Tap is a difficult film to review without also reviewing the first film, as this sequel is really just more of the same. As self-aware as ever – the film opens with Columbus’ voiceover thanking audiences for choosing Zombieland again after all this time, despite the many options now existing in the crowded zombie genre – the film is packed with references and gags at the expense of The Walking Dead (“totally unrealistic”) and Dawn of the Dead, among others. The action set-pieces have improved, with the final showdown at the afore-mentioned hippy commune feeling totally over-the-top and yet earned. The self-awareness and tongue in cheek approach to the material mean that the ridiculous action just feels right – as does the non-stop comically graphic violence. Expect a lot of beheadings, exploding skulls and dismemberments.

As with the first film, though, the highlight isn’t the action or the violence. It is the chemistry between the four leads, which, thankfully, is still totally intact. While Abigail Breslin has changed the most – she was just 13 in the first film and 23 in the second. Breslin’s acting certainly leaves the most to be desired, but it’s hard to tell if that’s because she’s just been given the weakest material. As the lovestruck Little Rock, all she gets to really do is blindly follow the object of her affection (Avan Jogia). Harrelson, Eisenberg and Stone, however, feel like they’ve been living in Zombieland this whole time as their chemistry and characters burst back to life like they’ve never been gone. Double Tap is considerably funnier than the first film, with Harrelson’s Tallahassee again proving himself to be one of the best, funniest and most bad-ass characters in the entire zombie subgenre. I’d love to see him stand up to the Whisperers…

Zombieland: Double Tap isn’t a masterpiece by any stretch, but I had a great time with it. I don’t know if that comes from a place of blind loyalty and nostalgia for a franchise that came along in a formative time of my life, or if I was actually enjoying the film. Either way, it does everything a sequel should – it expands upon and improves on what made the first film so much fun while staying true to its roots and feeling necessary and earned. Double Tap was a hell of a lot of fun.

Sam Love

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