Way back in the innocent year of 2009, I saw a movie that I absolutely loved. Now, I’ve never been a big fan of the whole zombie genre, just never quite connecting with any major work featuring the brain-dead monsters, outside of maybe the first few volumes of the Walking Dead comic. And, by 2009, I was kind of hoping that the subgenre would be ready to go dormant again, which really seemed confirmed when a comedy satirizing the whole subgenre was released, called Zombieland. At the time my friends and I loved the film, for it’s ridiculous gore and comedy, mixed with a fun and quirky film-making style that included lots of eccentric chyrons and editing, just generally feeling like a really fresh and fun take on a genre that felt quite stale at the time. And, after that I promptly forgot about the movie. I’d occasionally think about it, and remember it fondly, but I hadn’t bothered to revisit it since that initial love-fest, and just kind of assumed that we had moved on from it as a culture. So, you can imagine my shock when I learned that ten years after the original film the entire crew was getting back together, both behind and in front of the camera, to make a long-gestating sequel that had survived several permutations and stints in Development Hell. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from a film after ten years of silence, and ended up revisiting the first film as well just to get a hold of what I was getting into. And, it ended up being a pretty disappointing experience. Both in terms of the this new sequel, and honestly the original film as well.
Zombieland: Double Tap opens up ten years after the original, with our lovable band of zombie hunters still working as a ramshackle family, working their way through a post-apocalyptic world in search of some normalcy. We have the neurotic Columbus, the shit-kicking Tallahassee, and the sister duo of Little Rock and Wichita. They’ve apparently fought their way to Washington DC and have set up a semblance of a home in the White House, living for quite a while in a parody of domestic bliss. Until things start to go rotten. Little Rock is feeling boredom with her family, and has begin expressing a desire to spread her wings and go her own way, maybe finding people her own age, while Wichita and Columbus are feeling some strain after a ten-year relationship that has essentially stagnated. So, the night that Columbus attempts to propose to her, Wichita gets Little Rock and the pair run away, heading out on their own once more. And, a heartbroken Columbus sticks with Tallahassee as the older man also considers hitting the open road once again. And, while exploring one day they shockingly come across another human, a ditzy woman named Madison who has apparently been living on her own for ten years. Columbus and Madison immediately sleep together, which becomes awkward when Wichita returns home to tell them that Little Rock ran off on her, leaving with a young hippie named Berkeley who convinced her that some fellow young people have created a utopian society known as Babylon.
So, Wichia, Columbus, and Tallahassee load up their things and begin tracking down Little Rock, with Madison tagging along, much to everyone’s annoyance. They begin following Little Rock, knowing that she may have been heading out to visit Graceland after Tallahassee spoke so highly of it, and they end up quickly running into issues when it appears that Madison is turning into a zombie. They leave her for dead, and eventually reach Graceland, which they find has been destroyed. However, a nearby motel full of Elvis memorabilia is still open, and they find the car the Little Rock stole there. Unfortunately, she has already left, but the group does spend the night there, while Tallahassee falls for the proprietor, Nevada. The next morning though they meet two other zombie hunters, Albuquerque and Flagstaff, who both immediately turn into zombies and are killed, spurring the group on to Babylon. And, along the way they re-encounter Madison, who was just having an allergic reaction, and the quartet reach the hippie commune of Babylon. Everything seems okay at first, but it becomes clear that their frequent partying has caught the attention of a whole horde of zombies, who are rapidly approaching, and Babylon has strictly removed all weapons. But, our four heroes agrees to work together, and end up coming up with an inventive way to save Babylon and kill all the zombies, before leaving the peaceful commune with Nevada, the five of them seeking out a new home.
Double Tap is a pretty typical sequel. It tries to recapture the magic of the first by doing everything that it did again, but bigger and crazier, while constantly calling back to the first film to remind you that you liked it, so you must like this as well. And, it doesn’t really work. The chemistry is largely still all there, and the four principal actors honestly still work really well together, delivering the same type of comedy as the first film. But, it just feels rather tired. It really does feel strange to be revisiting such a slight film after ten years, only to find that it doesn’t have much to say other than a strange disdain for the kids today, really questioning why this movie got made at all. It has a few good gags, but it’s just generally kind of boring, treading over the same ground time and time again, while explicitly hoping that you’ll notice and enjoy the fact that it’s just like the first film. It’s like ten years have gone by, and nothing has happened to these characters, they’re all just referencing the stuff that happened to them ten years ago, with no real sense of time or change.
Which, ends up being the biggest thing that hampers this movie. Obviously, they could have attempted to make it seem like this movie was happening just after the first one, with the only problem being Abigail Breslin’s noticeable aging as she’s no longer a child. Because by actually making it a ten year gap, you start to question what’s going on in this movie. It’s a movie where culture ended in 2009, and as a result everyone is still acting like the first film. Which, upon revisiting the original, isn’t great! Columbus is a straight up incel, complaining about all the stuck up bitches who won’t date a good guy like him, and Wichita is a duplicitous schemer who relies on seducing everyone to get what she wants. And, weirdly, the movie keeps a shockingly antiquated view of culture, especially in the incredibly wrongheaded portrayal of Madison as a dumb sex-starved blonde and a lengthy debate about which man gets the right to have sex with Nevada. If this movie wanted to make a statement about the fact that culture in 2009 wasn’t as great as we remember it, and these characters are just continuing on that pre-woke era, it would be one thing, but instead it just reads as a movie that hasn’t grown up, and that’s still trying to speak to people from ten years ago with no insight into cultural growth. So, even worse than having nothing to say, it just kind of has wrong-headed things to say, which is a real bummer. It’s rare when a sequel actually ends up diminishing my opinions on the original film, but this one somehow managed to do it.
Zombieland: Double Tap was written by Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick, and Dave Callaham, directed by Ruben Fleischer, and released by Sony Pictures Releasing, 2019.
Categories: Reel Talk