By John Hanlon
It’s been over a decade since Zombieland invaded theaters and offered viewers the opportunity to laugh as four unique individuals fought to stay alive during the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse. That feature ended with the four survivors reuniting at an amusement park and forming a family unit of their own. The 2019 sequel Zombieland: Double Tap — which just arrived on Blu-Ray and DVD — builds on that family dynamic and shows how every family faces bumps along the way.
The sequel reintroduces the four main characters. There’s the rules-driven and nerdy protagonist, Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) and Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), a Twinkie-loving tough guy. Then there’s the free-spirited and sarcastic Wichita (Emma Stone) and her sister Little Rock (Abigail Breslin), a self-assured youngster who knows her way around a gun fight.
Early on in the sequel, the quirky quartet settle into the White House (yes, that White House) but face monotony as the seasons pass. Columbus and Tallahassee are living comfortably but Wichita feels bored and Little Rock longs for meeting people her own age. After the two women leave without saying a proper goodbye, that opens the story up for the introduction of a few great new characters.
Columbus befriends Madison (Zoey Deutch), an amiable girl who remained safe by locking herself in a freezer while Little Rock goes on an adventure with Berkeley (Avan Jogia), a peace-loving hippie. These two new characters fit naturally into the story and there’s a wonderful freshness seeing these characters (especially Madison) interact with the main group. As the easily-befuddled Madison (who continually faces jokes from the other characters), Deutch steals her scenes and brings a carefree and breezy energy to the story.
As the main characters search for the absent Little Rock, a few hilarious doppelgangers are also introduced to the mix. Luke Wilson and Thomas Middleditch co-star as Albuquerque and Flagstaff, two partners who share eerie similarities with Columbus and Tallahassee. The memorable dialogue with the doppelgangers provides a few great laughs and playfully injects the interplay with a sense of riotous silliness.
The screenplay by Dave Callaham and Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick continually build off the solid foundation of the original while offering a few great laughs and some memorable oddball characters.
That’s not to say that the zombie threats aren’t as real as they were last time. This time around, many of the zombies have personality traits (a “Homer” zombie, for instance, walks around clueless most of the time) and some have even developed superhuman strengths. There are a few fight scenes and battles here — including a great multi-faceted fight that was filmed as one long take — where the heroes face even greater dangers than they did before. The climax, for instance, features a group struggling to battle an army of zombies with few weapons to choose from.
Director Ruben Fleischer, who previously helmed Zombieland and Venom, finds a way here to maintain some of the memorable elements from the original while easily adding new characters to the mix. The character of Madison, for instance, provides such a strong counterweight to the other characters that the back-and-forth interactions between her character and the original quartet brings out some of the film’s best one-liners and quips. If another entry in this series offers the same kind of fun energy that this one did, I hope it won’t take a full decade for a third entry to appear.
Blu-Ray Special Features: The Blu-Ray contains a few neat featurettes. There’s a short one about the filmmakers spending a day with Bill Murray (to film the after-credits scene) and a great look at how the one-take fight sequence looked like on the day of shooting. Director Ruben Fleischer also provides an audio commentary of the film.