Zachary Dirksen — Staff Writer
I didn’t love the first Zombieland. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think it’s a bad movie. It’s well-shot and well-written, with some genuine chemistry among its cast and a solid number of laughs to boot. I didn’t, however, connect with the characters. The only character who was remotely relatable to me was Columbus, the movie’s nerdy, everyman narrator, but he’s soon eclipsed by his funnier, louder cohorts: the redneck survivalist Tallahassee, Columbus’ aloof love interest Wichita, and the young-but-self-sufficient Little Rock. The final product is a funny, but shallow, road trip comedy with a few decent zombie scares thrown in.
All that said, I really enjoyed the sequel, Zombieland: Double Tap. In the ten years since the first movie, our characters have deepened and grown. Each seems more real, more relatable. They’ve settled, as Columbus asserts. Making a new home in the abandoned White House, the future (regardless of zombies) is looking bright for this “family.” So, Columbus decides to take the next step and pop the question to Wichita.
However, Wichita’s perspective isn’t as bright. But rather than let Columbus down, she picks up Little Rock and leaves. Soon, however, Little Rock ditches Wichita with a love interest of her own. Wichita soon returns to the White House to enlist Tallahassee and Columbus’ help in Little Rock’s retrieval, only to find that Columbus has a new squeeze too, a ditzy blonde named Madison. Our family is fractured, and the road is calling them once more. Here we go again.
Zombieland: Double Tap excels above its predecessor in a few key areas. One such area is the character of Madison. Masterfully brought to life by Zoey Deutch, Madison is the exact opposite of the ideal Zombie apocalypse survivor. Impulsive, loud, and not especially resourceful, it’s a minor miracle that she’s survived this long. And yet, here she is. Such a character could quickly become incredibly annoying, but Madison serves as a needed foil to the ever stalwart group. She’s a ray of incredibly dense sunshine in a crew of aloof, sarcastic survivors. While her character may not get substantial development, the humor she brings is a net positive.
Another area of improvement is the writing. The first Zombieland, necessarily, spent an incredible amount of its runtime explaining to the audience the world in which the story plays out. This is most commonly done through Columbus’ list of rules for surviving the outbreak. In the sequel, Columbus’ rules are more often played for comedy, as if to poke fun at the concept of structure in a post-apocalyptic world. The movie takes what worked about the original and fleshes it out further. The relationships between characters are more solid and believable. Their new dynamic, more developed since the cautious mistrust of the original, is more fun to watch.
The action in Double Tap is pretty solid as well. Where as the action set pieces of the original aren’t as fun or impressive as they promise to be, the sequences here are, again, more dynamic and exciting. A particular scene in an Elvis-themed hotel is exceptionally well-done, and the final set piece is not only more tense, it also ties back into each character’s motivations and backstories.
Double Tap isn’t without its faults. Little Rock is has minimal screen time and the weakest of developments in the movie, and, compounded with her lackluster hippie/pacifist/stoner boyfriend, there’s not much in her story to get invested in. Zombieland’s themes have always been pretty surface level as well, and it’s no different here. The ideas of home being wherever and whenever you’re surrounded by the people you care about is explicitly stated multiple times by the characters. There’s not much for the audience to glean for themselves, outside of what the movie spoon-feeds them.
While definitely not Movie of the Year, I found Zombieland: Double Tap to be an enjoyable, fun time that improves upon its predecessor. The further development of the core main characters, as well as the addition of new characters and impressive set pieces improve the film from being just another by-the-numbers sequel.