They say that Christmas time is the season to be jolly. It’s also a season to spend time with loved ones. For many, it is a time to unwind from the daily grind of work or school. For these reasons, Zombieland: Double Tap is an absolute must-watch film for the season.
Sounds absurd, right? An R-13 zombie film as a Yuletide viewing option? Maybe. However, for a film featuring lots of hacked limbs and buckets of blood, Double Tap proudly wears its beating heart on its sleeve and gets to pick up a lot of laughs along the way.
Directed by Ruben Fleischer, Double Tap picks up from where the 2009 “zom-com” classic, Zombieland, left off. The protagonists decide to get comfy at the White House in a still zombie-infested America. It does not last for long, however, as Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) decide that domestic bliss is not for them and hit the road out of their comfort zone. This springs their companions, Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) and Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), into action as they journey to reunite the group once more.
As with most sequels, Double Tap heightens the stakes and even expands their world. The film introduces new zombie types more dangerous than those introduced in the prequel. Most menacing of these is the T-800 (as coined by the pop culture-obsessed Columbus), a zombie which takes more than a magazine of bullets to kill.
New characters are also introduced to add flavor to the already eccentric cast. Throughout its runtime, the film is sprinkled with personalities such as the hippie Berkeley (Avan Jogia) and Elvis fan Nevada (Rosario Dawson). However, it is Zoey Deutch’s performance which truly shines among the newbies. Deutch gets saddled with playing the thankless role of Madison, a stereotypical “dimwitted blonde”. Deutch, however, is pitch-perfect in playing Madison’s innocent silliness, with her line deliveries and physical comedy always eliciting the loudest laughs in the cinema.
Deutch’s character, which is based on an outdated trope, presents one of the crutches which hold back Double Tap. The sequel contains a lot of references to the original, which may be endearing to hardcore Zombieland fans but may just be odd to casual viewers. The sequel also doubles down on the snark. Now, sarcastic wit is one of the reasons why Zombieland became a breakout hit. Double Tap, however, overuses the wit and consequently becomes too clever for its own good. The snarky exchanges of the characters can range from predictable to glib.
Despite those downsides, Double Tap still manages to be an amusing time. Similar to Columbus’ rule, Double Tap is meant to be enjoyed for the little things. When the jokes land, they land hard. Look out for a humorous sequence featuring Tallahassee, Columbus, and 2 new characters set midway through the film. The repeated Zombie Kills of the Year gag also finds interesting ways to turn otherwise squirmy sequences into light-hearted ones, too. There is also an extended Elvis homage featuring Tallahassee that also gets to showcase Harrelson’s rugged charisma.
Aside from the humor, Double Tap also flexes its budget well through its sets and set-pieces. The White House setting makes for a charming contrast between its cavernous majesty and the free-wheeling nature of the leads. Another standout is the final set-piece located at Babylon (named after the David Gray song, not the Hanging Gardens). Babylon may not be as impressive as the original’s Pacific Playland, but it is vibrant enough and designed just as cohesively to host an action-packed climax.
But the film would not be as delightful if not for the chemistry of the four leads. Harrelson and Eisenberg still form a solid comedic duo. Stone still maintains Wichita’s mystery here, but her performance is more nuanced this time around; she is able to subtly change from steely to gentle in a few scenes. Breslin’s Little Rock has a more rebellious streak this time, as both she and her character have grown up from the previous film. The familiarity of the main cast keeps this larger sequel in its place, as Double Tap does not forget that the characters are the living, breathing core of the film.
For all its faults, Double Tap remains a pleasant film. It does not break ground for the already crowded zombie genre, but it still holds up well due to its commitment to its central theme: that home is where the people we care for and we feel safest with are.
So yes, if you want a film to watch with your loved ones (who can watch R-13 films) but still want your undead fix this Yuletide season, then Double Tap is a decent choice to experience the Christmas spirit.
‘Tis the season to be jolly, and ‘tis the time to nut up or shut up.
VERDICT: 3.5 out of 5 stars.
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