Say you visit a good friend you haven’t seen in about a decade. Not a “once in a lifetime” friend, but maybe a childhood one you have fond memories of. It’s a little awkward at first, you really don’t know what to say, but then you start to get back into that old groove again, you wind up having a pretty good time, yet maybe not as memorable as you were hoping, but a feel lingering sense that you had a lot of fun and you’ll end up thinking about that fun every couple of years. That’s ZOMBIELAND 2: DOUBLE TAP. The last time we saw all these characters, Tallahassee, Columbus, Wichita, and Little Rock, was ten years ago, 2009. Now the first Zombieland isn’t the end all be all of horror comedies; it was short, sweet, and delightful. I actually just revisited it a couple of months ago and it still held up, I still laughed and smiled at those moments that made me laugh and smile the first time I saw it. What makes the first Zombieland somewhat memorable are the cast of characters I mentioned, and mainly Columbus’ rules. With the sequel, you get more of the same, but just a lot more of it. More stylish zombie kills, more rule jokes, and more bitching from the characters directed at each other. They do however, have some new tricks up their sleeves, such as some new quirky survivor characters and jokes where they make fun of the fact we haven’t seen them for ten years, and it all wraps itself up into one nice pure ol’ fashioned zombie comedy comfort experience.
If you have any interest in seeing this, go in cold, definitely do not watch the Red Band R-rated trailer. The fresher it is, the funnier it will be to you. I went in cold, laughed out loud a lot (seeing just the regular trailer in theaters), went back home and watched the R rated trailer, and was really glad that I waited. Not to say the movie would’ve been ruined, just that a couple of jokes that I saw fresh were probably funnier live than having seen them before I sat down in the theater. I would say the movie is as funny as the first one, with everybody, especially Harrelson, Eisenberg and Stone being able to just slip back into their characters with ease. The only one that gets the short end of the stick this time around (and may have gotten the short stick last time, I’d have to go back and check) is Abigail Breslin. It’s not to say she doesn’t do a good job in this, she does, but the plot basically has her being the main MacGuffin this time around, as everything revolves around her ditching the group, joining some hippie dude on his travels (there are only one or two small scenes of this) , and the group having to find her. She’s maybe on screen, maybe 15-20 minutes. Thankfully though, the other three, combined with some new quirky characters, stay together enough where Breslin’s absence isn’t that noticeable. If there is a third one, I’d suggest no more group splits as they are all much better altogether.
If there is an MVP award to give to a cast member for being a complete and utter masterful scene-stealer, it wouldn’t go to any of the mains this time (last time it went to Harrelson easily), but to Zoey Deutch, who plays a new supporting character named Madison. Whenever she open her mouth you want to slap your forehead. Deutch absolutely nails it. If this character wasn’t such an annoyingly likable scene-stealer, I’m sure there would be uproars from women claiming that Zoey just plays a blonde bimbo Californian stereotype. But the writers did a good job of giving her just enough likable quirkiness to maybe have an arm and a leg leaning out of that spectrum to cause no complaints. Same goes for the hippie that takes Little Rock away named Berkeley. Also wiping out any misgivings about any underwritten female characters comes another new character, Nevada, played by Rosario Dawson, who brings her cool and strong demeanor to a character that may or may not have the hots for Tallahassee. Rounding it out we get some hippie unknowns that are mostly forgettable, and if you’ve seen any regular trailer, you’ve see that Luke Wilson and Thomas Middleditch pop up as mirror like clones of Harrelson’s and Eisenberg’s characters, but thankfully, the real jokes and fun memorable bits from their small scenes were a nice treat and hidden from any marketing material.
I know that I am one to complain about more of the same, especially when I used that defense to tear open the new Joker movie a new asshole. But let me reiterate: I don’t mind if it is more of the same when the filmmakers, studio, and everyone involved is telling you that it will be exactly that from the get go. Joker is promoting itself as something different yet it is still a combination of one too many mental illness movies I’ve already seen. The trailers of Zombieland 2, hell, even the intro to this movie, basically say that what you got last time, you are going to get this time, albeit with a couple of tweaked concepts here and there. Hell, the intro is another slow motion zombie killing extravaganza featuring a different Metallica song. Just like the first film, there isn’t some world bending downer plot, it is just about a couple of individuals that group together to become a “family” and have funny and outrageous adventures, all while trying to survive and killing zombies in the most gruesome ways imaginable. The whole movie feels as if it is a bunch of individual scenes strung together, nothing complicated. Imagine if you will SNL had an hour and a half show of “zombie only” skits featuring the same characters, only this film is about 2000% funnier than what the writers of SNL could have probably come up with. I could talk in length about the jokes that really work and the jokes that don’t, but that would ruin the fun. Let’s just say there are a lot more hits than misses. When it does miss though, it isn’t loud or distracting.
Overall, everybody in this film looks like they had a fun time making it. Emma Stone has said that she’d like to do another one in another decade, another peek into these characters lives if you will. The writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick say that the Deadpool movies are to blame (they wrote those as well), as for the reasons why we never saw a Zombieland 2 sooner. Oh really? You couldn’t have say, maybe not written the Alien rip off mediocrity known as Life with Jake Gyllenhaul? Whatever. Actually, I think Emma Stone has a good idea. Where as the big important franchises can only have 2 to 3 years between films or else they become irrelevant (watch Avatar 2 bomb), some movies are just good enough, yet not important enough, to outlast the test of time. I think Zombieland would be a treat every decade or so. Or if they don’t want to do it as long, maybe another 7 to 8 years. This isn’t a masterpiece by any means of the word, and only a few things about it are truly memorable (especially the two end credit sequences), but sometimes, isn’t that just what you want, a decent hour and a half escape watch?