Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Ruben Fleischer
Stars: Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin, Zoey Deutch, Rosario Dawson, Luke Wilson, Thomas Middleditch, Avan Jogia.
Given the popularity of the zombie genre recently, it’s hard to believe that the zombie comedy splatterfest Zombieland was released ten years ago. The film proved to be a box office hit, so it’s not surprising that we have the inevitable sequel; what is surprising is that it has taken a decade for this belated sequel to reach our screens. The original cast all return for this sequel which captures the spirit of the original.
Our heroes Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) the Elvis-obsessed redneck, the nervous and introspective Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), the feisty Wichita (Emma Stone) and her sister Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) have somehow managed to survive for a decade while travelling across the zombie infested urban wasteland and badlands of America. Columbus’ sardonic voice over narration briefly brings us up to speed on events, and even introduces us to three new types of zombies that seem to have evolved – the Homers (dumb ones), the Hawkings (smart ones named after the late physicist Stephen Hawking), and the stealthy Ninjas.
Our heroes have set themselves up in the abandoned White House. But they are beginning to tire of each other’s company. When Columbus proposes to Wichita she freaks out and leaves with Little Rock, who has become tired of being treated as a little girl by the overbearing surrogate father figure Tallahassee. But Little Rock, eager to spend time with people of her own age, sneaks away from Wichita after hooking up with a guitar playing pacifist named Berkely (Avan Jogia), and the pair set off on a road journey together heading towards a hippie commune known as Babylon.
Wichita returns to the White House to gather some more weapons and then set off after Little Rock. She is appalled to learn that Columbus has quickly replaced her in his affections with Madison (an almost unrecognisable Zoey Deutch, from Before I Fall, etc), an impossibly ditzy blonde bimbo who has somehow managed to survive by hiding out inside a freezer in a shopping mall. They join Witchita on a road odyssey to find Little Rock and return her to the fold. Witchita also warns them of the existence of a new type of evolved zombie, the T-800s, a breed of superzombies named after the indestructible robots from the Terminator movies.
Returning to the well a decade after is often fraught with difficulties and the stench of failure, but thankfully original director Ruben Fleischer and writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (who also worked on Deadpool) and Dave Callaham (The Expendables, etc) adhere largely to the subversive formula that made the original a huge hit at the box office. The script is laden with plenty of sarcastic dialogue and cheeky one-liners and tinged with a healthy irreverence for the genre. Fleischer also uses plenty of visual flourishes to punctuate the movie.
Most of the humour comes from the verbal sparring between the characters. There is plenty of gore, with some inventive ways to despatch zombies, but the violence is almost cartoonish and played for laughs. There is a high body count, particularly in the full-on climactic showdown when zombies overrun Babylon. But the film also deals with more universal themes of family, friendship, and the importance of finding a home.
Since the original film, the careers of the four stars have taken off in a big way, but the easy-going chemistry between the quartet is also still present. Harrelson certainly looks as if he is enjoying himself immensely here. The writers have also introduced a number of new characters who add to the material. These include Nevada (Rosario Dawson), the tough as nails proprietor of an Elvis themed hotel in Memphis and her two zombie hunting partners Flagstaff (Thomas Middleditch) and Albuquerque (Luke Wilson), doppelgangers of Tallahassee and Columbus, who have their own rules for dealing with zombies. But it is Deutch who practically walks away with the film with her superb comic performance here.
And, despite having been killed off in the original, the superbly droll Bill Murray (who is also appearing in the zombie comedy The Dead Don’t Die) returns here for a brief final credits sequence that takes us back to the outbreak of the zombie apocalypse.
Although nowhere near as enjoyable as films like the superb Shaun Of The Dead, Zombieland: Double Tap delivers and is a lot of fun in an overheated market of zombie comedies. This is not a mere imitation of the original Zombieland, and will not disappoint fans of that film.
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