What goes on the mind of a Hollywood producer perusing all the IPs his production house in the hopes to find something – anything – that he can squeeze a couple of million out of it. It could be a niche cult film from the 80s. It could be the title of a famous song, that may have a story that just tangentially connects to it. A TV show from the 50s that no one alive remembers, but at least the press notes will reference that it’s a remake of a “darling property that shaped our culture” or something. I suppose a sequel for a film made ten years ago isn’t the worst of ideas, and at least they’re not trying to hack a reboot out of it.
So what do we have? Is it finally the famed sequel to Avatar? Are we finally finding out if an adolescent Russell still hangs out with cranky old Carl from Up? No? Did they double down on the apocalypse scare of 2012?
No, no, no, this year’s most unexpected twist is that we got a sequel to Zombieland, the harmless but charming comedy with Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, Woody Harrelson and Abigail Breslin. Zombieland! I mean sure it was a nice lovely film released back in 2009, it had that funny cameo with Bill Murray, it made it look like Ruben Fleischer was about to be the next big thing in Hollywood, and the cast had that cool-zeitgeist of the era. But in the box-office, this only got to the 42nd place of the year, behind Knowing and… G-Force? So either Hollywood is getting cocky about the appeal of their IPs, or the crew behind the original film missed hanging out, like they all remembered the last time they were all happy, without the pressure of fame and failure. And if that’s the case, then I’m on board.
I trusted this was the case. Zombieland: Double Tap is the most unnecessary, and pleasantly entertaining sequel of the year. We meet our old pals Columbus (Eisenberg), Wichita (Stone), Tallahassee (Harrelson) and Little Rock (Breslin) – I had completely forgotten about the names – as they are comfortably happy living the good life in the White House. Little Rock is getting older and interested in her own rebellious adventure and figures she needs to leave the nest to sniff out a mate. The world is still dangerous and packed with zombies, including a new breed of faster and more dangerous ones, so the group off goes to find her. On the way they meet Madison (Zoey Deutch), a ditzy and vivacious valley girl who has survived, against all odds, in the freezer of Macy’s.
There is nothing new to explore on the concept, so the film treats this instalment like we’re catching up on an episode of our favourite show. The rules that Columbus devised to survive the wasteland are still in place, and continue to frame some of the zaniest moments. There’s a new variation of the “Kill Of The Week” gag, but it doesn’t work as well and the payoff is the same.
I give credit to the writing team of Dave Callaham, Rhet Reese and Paul Wernick. They didn’t try to reinvent the wheel, nor pull the same trick twice. They found a way to expand the characters in a believable way. And trudged the fine line of self-awareness without hamming it up – there’s a great scene with two new characters, played by Luke Wilson and Thomas Middletich, supposed to mirror Harrelson and Eisenberg, that goes far and beyond it should’ve while still delivering the goods – and even including the best Shakespeare/US-geography reference I’ve ever seen.
The inclusion of Rosario Dawson’s character as Tallahasee’s romantic interest, could’ve been left for a third instalment, and have an entire film for her own, but apart from that this is just the same enjoyable romp. Clever enough to keep me interest, stupid enough to make laugh.
The entire cast is having a ball here, especially Harrelson, but I have to hand it to Deutch who turned an annoyingly one-dimensional joke into a compelling and funny character. I would watch a spin-off about how she survived alone in a mall for ten years.
Are there better things to watch out there? Sure. But I’m going to say what I didn’t in 2009 – I could watch another one of these.