“Late” sequels have been known to be problematic at times (just ask Henry Jones Jr.), with the passing of time slowly eroding the movie’s momentum with a audience like the tide chipping away at a cliff. Wait too long and your triumphant return will be either be met with the deafening silence of audience apathy or, worse yet, howls of fan indignation as the decade gap between installments has meant that the tone and characters no longer reflect the original. After a proposed TV show was scrapped orginal director Ruben Fleischer (hot off the flabbergasting success of the below average Venom) and orginal scribes Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (also hot off the success of penning both Deadpool films) finally garnered enough clout to get a long awaited sequel to their perky original in the bag; but has the wait been worth it?
Pretty much, yeah.
We pick up with our rag tag gang of zombie slayers after having settled down for the last couple of years by setting up home in the White House, but after a while things have gotten a little close. Jittery, rules obsessed Columbus’ relationship with Wichita has become stuck in a rut and her sister, Little Rock is similarly feeling smothered by the fact that foul mouthed cowboy, Tallahassee has taken on his surrogate father responsibilities a little too well. So one morning both Columbus and Tallahassee wake to find both sisters reverted back to their old ways and have snuck off to get some much needed space. However in an attempt to find them the boys run into the perpetually perky Madison, a vacuous but big hearted valley girl who has spent the last 10 years living in a freezer in a shopping mall who wastes no time repeatedly getting on Tallahassee’s nerves and seducing Columbus.
However, in a return that sparks much social awkwardness, Witicha reveals that in a stunning slice of irony that Little Rock ditched HER in favour of teenage pacifist Berkley so the gang saddles up and embarks on another to bring her back which takes in the sights of Graceland along the way. But will the fact that the zombies are starting to evolve into a tougher, more vicious breed cause the gang potentially fatal problems and despite all their claims to the contrary, will the four stay together even if they survive?
Firstly, it’s my happy duty to announce that Zombieland: Double Tap neatly avoids the curse of the “late sequel” for the most part, bringing back the same snarky and slightly anarchic tone that the original had. Continuing with the theme that the zombie apocalypse and all the death and destruction is actually pretty sweet – there’s as much danger of any of the leads being in any real peril than in an episode of the Mr Men – there is a strong argument to be made that maybe things are a little too light for any real drama to poke through the narrow gaps between razor sharp put downs and heavy duty weaponry. Certainly there’s nothing here to match the first movie’s reveal about Tallahassee’s “dog”, Buck, but the cast – positively laden with Oscar noms and golden statuettes between them – are obviously having huge amounts of fun settling into these characters after a decade for it to matter too much.
The action is zippy and glib although could feature a few more zombies (the movie IS called Zombieland, y’know?) and the additions to the cast (including the always watchable Rosario Dawson), despite being good value for money, don’t ultimately add anything new to the established dynamic also an extended cameo by Luke Wilson is a movie highlight.
Speaking of cameos (and the original had one of the greatest of all time) and not to give anything away – unlike some of the trailers – you may want to stay after the credits to get a rambunctious and riotous flashback to the first days of the zombie outbreak which includes a familiar face.
Loaded with belly laughs and a huge amount of callbacks to the original with Zombie Kill Of The Week making a welcome return and Columbus recoiling in horror on discovering that shooting someone mistakenly has been labelled “Murraying” after his mistaken slaying of Bill Murray ranking high, fans should be nicely seated.
But there is an old feeling that, like Columbus, the movie is playing things sort of safe and lacks a certain amount of the surprise factor that boosted the original into being such a firm favorite.
However it also seems kind of churlish to condemn a movie just because it’s dedicated to being a ton of fun and not much else – which frankly we should be happy for because this spunky shoot ’em up still proves that there’s ironically still life in the zombie movie yet.