Remember 2009? “Zombieland: Double Tap” does. When its predecessor, “Zombieland,” was released, zombies still felt fresh. “The Walking Dead” hadn’t premiered yet and its deluge of ripoffs were still years away. The early 2000s’ “28 Days Later” and “Dawn of the Dead” had just resurrected the genre by introducing sprinting zombies, which “Zombieland” made good use of.
“Zombieland” was an amusing horror comedy with just enough bite to raise it above mediocrity. The gory zombie sequences were fun and Jesse Eisenberg (“The Social Network”), who plays the main character in both films, hadn’t become annoying yet. It was 2009’s best Halloween movie.
But it’s not 2009. It’s 2019, and “Zombieland: Double Tap” has lost its edge. Obscenely violent slow motion montages, apocalyptic sitcom style humor and meta references are a dime a dozen these days. Einsenberg’s voiceovers are also groan-inducingly on the nose. Even if the occasional joke hits its mark, there is nothing memorable.
Practically every character is defined by a simple characteristic. Characters that exist solely as stereotypes (arguably) may have been alright in 2009, but they aren’t so easy to forgive in 2019, especially when these stereotypes lean towards the problematic. There’s the weed-loving hippie and the dumb blonde, characters even 2019’s prime time TV would deem overly simplistic and offensive.
Most of the characterization issues involve the film’s women. They all are obsessed with finding boyfriends, even though society itself has collapsed. Nevada, played by Rosario Dawson (“Rent”), is treated as a sexual object, argued over and literally compared to a driveway to be parked in, and she doesn’t seem to mind too much. Abigail Breslin’s (“Little Miss Sunshine”) Little Rock leaves her sister to die for the first man she meets. Even the fiercely independent Wichita, played by Emma Stone (“La La Land”), makes choices that come from a writer who believes that all women want to do is shack up with the only available man.
Tallahassee’s (Woody Harrellson, “The Hunger Games”) controlling, aggressive attitude isn’t funny anymore, especially not when women are involved. His love of guns hasn’t aged well and, even in the context of a zombie apocalypse, rings a little tone deaf. After the violence of the last decade, scenes of Tallahassee worshipping automatic weapons just aren’t as funny as the movie wants them to be. No scenes in “Zombieland: Double Tap” are, in fact.
Stone and Harrellson’s talent is wasted on an unoriginal script that never reaches even the modest highs “Zombieland” did. Everything effective about the movie was done better in the first — every “Zombie Rule” and “Zombie Kill of The Week” gimmick just seems stale now.
The film meanders from zombie set piece to zombie set piece and from bad joke to bad joke, shambling around the same overworked ground “Zombieland” trod a decade ago. Instead of Bill Murray’s house, it’s Elvis’s. Instead of a climatic zombie battle at a carnival, it’s at a colorful, carnivalesque hippie commune. The only scene worth watching is after the credits, when Bill Murray returns for a wild zombie killing spree that has more laughs than the entire movie itself. Check it out on Youtube.
“Zombieland: Double Tap” is an exhausted, forgettable misfire from the eternally churning blockbuster sequel machine. It has just enough frivolous violence and juvenile humor to live on through the nighttime TV circuit, buried between “Simpsons” reruns, coming back to yearn for the one thing it doesn’t have: brains.