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2 ½ (out of 4)
With a decade of horror-comedy hindsight, the ingenuity of Zombieland rings considerably fainter than it did in 2009. Whereas Shaun of the Dead is a legitimately animate genre-niche template reinforced with as many iconic touches as its flesh-eating progenitor, Zombieland is really just as boorish and haphazard as you’d expect any latent American counterpart to be.
Besides beating a couple of catch phrases into the ground and securing an uncommonly fair profit for Sony, there was no reason why this afterthought of a sequel to the first Z-land demanded creation. Whatever the present momentum behind such a follow-up, the questionably aged modesty of Zombieland has been remotely improved with a new installment – but the trivial, hardly noteworthy adjustments are too slight to celebrate. The original movie and now Double Tap’s reliance on rom-com remedies ultimately places them closer to the forgettable mashups of Warm Bodies (recollect that one if you can) than little cultural moments inspired enough to treasure.
But most of the audience is there for the cast rather than spoofs and trashy gore. Of course the most bankable performer is Woody Harrelson, who thank god has dropped the Twinkie thing and pleases most reliably as himself and himself alone. Jesse Eisenberg and Emma Stone follow suit although to far less dependable results – Harrelson's essence alone can shift lifelessness into revelry with satisfaction guaranteed but Eisenberg’s meekness, inseparable from his shtick, hasn't matured much. And although Stone has retracted the bangs and excessive make-up, the Academy Award-winning actress is barely removed from the Queen of Sarcasm status she was known for in her Easy A days. Meanwhile the former innocence of Abigail Breslin doesn’t hold weight when the young lady is 23 years old – as the smallest celebrity on the poster, the writers do what they can to remove her character from the centerfold of the movie. The search for an absconded, impulsive 18-year-old is more of an actual story than the near-sketch comedy of the former movie and the additional characters apart from undead cannibals are the film’s only antidote to sameness.
Borderline cameos by Luke Wilson and Thomas Middleditch lead you to a gleefully choreographed one-take sequence, making up the best second act action-comedy excerpt you could ask for from something like this. But it takes Zoey Deutch (of Everybody Wants Some!! and other far worse movies) playing a stereotypical mid-20s dumb slut to secure some decent chuckles and give this Z-quel a specific flavor. Unfortunately Deutch's character is just a pawn in Double Tap's labored attempt to shade the Eisenberg-Stone romance with a new hew, but this reliance on the most shopworn sitcom jealously angles severely limits the degree of charm these movies exude.
In theory, the idea of misfits surviving a zombie apocalypse is genre gold, maybe once; in practice, it’s marginally strained and underwhelming in either case. The continuation of Eisenberg’s narration exacerbates things, tying together faint, unrelated themes in a passable enough perhaps for a random episode of Scrubs. Both Zombieland flicks fall just short of the laugh-out-loud funny threshold, and if this new movie didn't revise the sloppiness that had a hand in the previous film's popularity – accommodating sharper self-awareness, inserting a twist or two beyond the accidental murder of Bill Murray – Double Tap would be hazardous to your health rather than a mid-October evening-killer.
To keep it brief...
Soon to Come:
The Rise of Skywalker
A Hidden Life
"So what've you been up to?"
"Escaping mostly... and I escape real good."
- Inherent Vice