The Zombie bashers return
Ten years after a zombie apocalypse, history stands still. Somehow, the quartet of original comedic zombie bashers returns intact for “Zombieland: Double Tap,” which adds hippies, monster trucks, hunter zombies, and a blonde, wide-eyed “valley girl” named Madison (Zoey Deutch) arriving to complicate Columbus’ (Jesse Eisenberg) deteriorating relationship with a suffocated-by-closeness Wichita (Emma Stone).
Her younger sis Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) wants to meet a young man (in a world where seemingly none survived) so she and Wichita leave the luxuries of the abandoned White House for greener pastures, leaving Columbus to mope with an increasingly wandering Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson).
For a brief reminder, we met nerdy Columbus searching for anyone near his Ohio home. He’s taken in by Tallahassee for a never ending road trip and pickup con artists Wichita and Little Rock who tell of a West Coast sanctuary, an abandoned theme park free of flesh eaters, until the quartet turn on the lights and lure a horde to the park.
That reflection on the original film has parallels to the sequel (i.e. the hippie pacifist Babylon).
Despite blasting heads and slashing bodies, “Zombieland: Double Tap” is a comedy. Zombies evolved as Homers, Ninjas, Hawkings, and the T-800’s have no brains and are pushovers if one has the fire power.
After the Lincoln’s bedroom proposal rejection, the new “Zombieland” has a lull. The schtick and chemistry of the quartet has been shattered. Enter mall freezer dweller Madison, intellectually challenged, into instant gratification no real emotions, ceaseless jabbering, pretty in pink Juicy Couture sweats, Von Dutch tank top (and Uggs) who rescues Columbus from depression then naively woos acceptance after Wichita returns dumped by Little Rock for a hippie composer.
Yes, Babylon resembles the “amusement park” destination of the first film, but it’s merely a venue for conflicting peace (no guns allowed) and zombie kills. Babylon’s leaders melt guns into peace metals. Until the arrival of the quartet, it seems no one considered a zombie invasion of what is defended by a fence, a commons area, and a partially functioning high rise that has a rooftop of recreational goodies.
Keeping with the #Metoo environment, the sequel downplays sex and romance. After Wichita bolts, the intimacy-starved Madison demands a Lincoln Bedroom encounter. It occurs, but as she pounces fully clothed on Columbus, the scene goes to black.
Eisenberg stays calm during the Madison/Wichita conflict, which aside from her coming down the steps barefooted is trumped up once Wichita returns. Eisenberg is no stranger to “leading sexy females.” He starred with Kristen (Twilight) Stewart in “Adventureland” the same year that the first “Zombieland” paired him with Emma Stone.
Try as they might – and they do by quickly achieving chemistry with Zoey Deutch – the veterans can not spark the hilarity from Madison’s naivete and motor mouthing one-liners. She steals the film by spinning and twisting a “airhead” stereotype in which she’s technically more forward thinking than the others particularly as constant pursuer. Call her a perfect foil for the couple and a seamless happy banter counter for every “dumb” blonde joke imaginable.
The pink suited mall rat (think “Legally Blonde”) Deutch spends the film as a near fool, though, she hints of her true thinking capacities by a 2009 prediction that essentially suggests Uber-like driving pool would be a good replacement for taxis and timely use of pepper spray.
Eisenberg has a cerebral style and Stone has a snarky persona, so Deutch shoulders guileless “lightness” in the bloody zombie-infested heartland.
“Venom” director Ruben Fleischer is behind this sequel, along with original writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick – the team behind “Deadpool” – which flawlessly amplifies the somber funnies of the original.
Tony Rutherford is a film reviewer for HuntingtonNews.net and a member of the Huntington Regional Film Commission.