Basically: Welcome back to Zombieland, where our intrepid foursome have survived long enough to start growing apart.
As the movie opens, Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) cheerily welcomes the viewer back to Zombieland. Noting that there are plenty of zombie entertainment options to choose from, the team are happy the audience is back. Things have leveled up since last time, with the zombies now coming in separate grades: the idiot “homers”, the clever “hawkings”, and the stealthy “ninjas”…with rumors of a hard-to-kill variant they dub the “T-800”.
But Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), Wichita (Emma Stone), and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) are satisfied with their new home—the White House—even if their situations are less satisfactory. A rift develops between Tallahassee and his surrogate daughter Little Rock, while a more serious split breaks apart Columbus and Wichita. The girls depart, and Columbus takes a break for some “retail therapy”. There he encounters Madison (Zoey Deutch) who’s been living in a mall freezer since the outbreak.
Photo: Columbia Pictures
Wichita soon returns, seeking weapons to go after Little Rock who’s hooked up with a hippie pacifist named Berkeley (Avan Jogia). They’re bound for Graceland, one of Tallahassee’s most hallowed places, but they arrive too late. Little Rock and Berkeley have moved on, according to local hotel-owner Nevada (Rosario Dawson). Despite the threat of evolved zombies and other survivors showing up, the real tension is whether this self-made family can find each other and endure while wanting different things out of life.
Eisenberg, Harrelson, Stone, and Breslin slide back into their characters as if not a day has passed, even though they have visibly grown since we left them. Columbus still has his quirks and list of rules, Tallahassee is still a volatile stick of dynamite, Wichita is still unable to commit, and Little Rock is still sassy yet idealistic. But time has put its stamp on them. Little Rock worries she will never find a boyfriend, Wichita has trouble settling down, and Tallahassee yearns for the open road. It’s a combination that detonates their relationships and the actors surf this emotional tidal wave expertly. Plus, there’s a running gag about their mode of transportation that gives Harrelson plenty of hilarious slow-burn moments.
Deutch provides a load of laughs as Madison, a pink-clad dimbulb who nevertheless shows heart and courage, while Dawson is a tremendous foil for Harrelson as Nevada. A surprise appearance by two actors (who will not be named here) elevates the movie’s screwball camp with a burst of crazy action just when needed.
Photo: Columbia Pictures
Although the effects are astonishing and director Ruben Fleischer’s command of both mood and movement reach new heights, the real meat of the movie is the interplay between the four core survivors. We’ve seen the story before—a family pulled apart by diverging needs—but writers Paul Wernick, Rhett Reese, and Dave Callaham deliver a strong emotional story among the gunplay, exploding heads, and epic property damage. Though it has horror elements aplenty, Zombieland: Double Tap is fundamentally a comedy and a commentary on the family we choose.
In the End: As a sequel, Zombieland: Double Tap more than delivers; as a movie, it’s quite a gem that stands on its own nicely.
P.S. Do not race out of the theater—there’s a fun little payoff to a throwaway line from earlier in the movie you will want to see.