‘Zombieland: Double Tap’ Delivers Absurd Gross-Out Humor
The original “Zombieland” was well-crafted and very watchable escapist entertainment. Following the footsteps of several genre parodies that had come before, director Ruben Fleischer’s 2009 film was harmless fun with one particular standout strength; a cast of fresh faces sporting outstanding chemistry with one another playing off a Twinkie obsessed Woody Harrelson. Now, ten years later, the gang of heroic survivors returns in “Zombieland: Double Tap,” a sequel that’s not as fun as the original movie but provides plenty of gross-out comedy.
The film begins with a slow-motion assault on the White House, Metallica’s “Master of Puppets” thundering away alongside shotgun blasts. Considering the country’s political climate, “Double Tap’s” convenient backdrop of using American landmarks feels like a wasted opportunity, particularly with the inherent end of the world commentary at the movie’s disposal.
Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) provides the audience with snarky, Lemony Snicket-like, word nerd narration that almost disappears after a series of early info dumps. He describes the different categories of zombie intelligence for the viewer, ranging from Homers to Hawkings, also informing them of acronyms like ZKOTY: zombie kill of the year, that have become common slang in Zombieland.
After taking the oval office for their home base of operations, Columbus proposes to Wichita (Emma Stone), which she turns down, crushing Columbus. On the flip side of things Wichita’s sister Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) desperately wants to meet a significant other, something that’s not so easy to come by during the apocalypse. “You are so lucky you don’t have a boyfriend,” Wichita tells her. The siblings decide to leave Washington and the boys behind, taking Tallahassee’s (Harrelson) precious long-horned ride with a mini-gun mounted to the top with them.
Scavenging a local mall, the men come across a living and breathing Barbie in pink cotton candy form, named Madison (Zooey Deutch), who assures the pair that she’s, “like, really good at surviving.” Soon, she’s jumping on Columbus’ bones. When Wichita returns to the White House, after Little Rock leaves her for a hipster music boy from Berkley (Avan Jogia), things get a little awkward.
There are also rumors of a new kind of zombie out there, one’s that are better adapted and more difficult to put down. The gang decide to make their way to Graceland, Tallahassee having a thing for the king. Meanwhile, Little Rock and Berkley drive to the fabled Babylon, a safe haven from zombies with a strict no guns allowed policy. Along the way they meet other survivors, played by Rosario Dawson, Luke Wilson and Thomas Middleditch, the latter two serving as comedic mirror images of Eisenberg and Harrelson’s characters.
“Double Tap’s” screenplay relies on gross-out comedy, from vomit jokes to grindhouse gore, all of it gratuitous by design, but people getting their faces eaten is only amusing for so long. Some more clever bits in the film are background dressing, such as Tallahassee making a Santa Beard out of cotton balls, or the geeky hybrid reference shirts Columbus wears.
Eisenberg does his neurotic thing well, but he’s kind of outgrown that character by this point in his career. Harrelson seems like he’s totally phoning it in, looking like an outlaw out of a costume party. The character now claims to have indigenous blood running through his veins and waxes about samurai and seppuku. His character seemed a little less forced when he was just a foul-mouthed Twinkie hunter. Breslin isn’t given much to do, and Stone, frankly, looks bored. But, cast against type, Deutch is having tons of fun as the blonde bumble-head. She’s made the butt of a joke for nearly every moment she’s on screen.
Laying in the White House, Columbus dismisses “The Walking Dead” comic book he is reading as “unrealistic.” Audiences will get the reference, but it’s a line so inherent it didn’t need to be written. In the end, “Double Tap” can seem a little dated. While it’s gross-out humor is fun, watching the “Zombieland” sequel is the cinematic equivalent of eating an old Twinkie you forgot was in the pantry.
“Zombieland: Double Tap,” opens Friday Oct. 18 in theaters nationwide.