A sinking feeling sets in moments after “Zombieland: Double Tap” begins.
Is this another “Zoolander 2?”
The madcap glee that pushed 2009’s “Zombieland” into instant cult status is nowhere to be found … at first. Yes, the core four are back -- Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, Jesse Eisenberg and Abigail Breslin. The story still wheezes and coughs when it should be clearing its zom-com throat.
Then that old “Zombieland” formula whirs to life, and the stars’ chemistry simultaneously kicks in. The sequel isn’t as fresh, as frisky, as the original. And boy are some plot turns brain dead on arrival. It’s still a brisk palate cleanser after this year’s disastrous “The Dead Don’t Die.”
We reunite with Tallahassee (Harrelson), Wichita (Stone), Columbus (Eisenberg) and Little Rock (Breslin) as they settle into their new home, the White House.
There’s nothing political about the setting beyond a blink and you’ll miss it Obama/Hope print on the wall. It’s just a sign the quartet is safe, happy and flirting with domesticity.
Well, the men in the group sure are.
Wichita and Little Rock are suddenly ready to roam, one of several plot beats that completely collapses upon inspection. Ten years later and suddenly they’ve got happy feet?
So off they go, leaving the men behind to lick their emotional wounds. Columbus still hearts Wichita, and Tallahassee thinks of Little Rock as his daughter.
The ladies’ departure sets the threadbare story in motion. It’s just an excuse for our friends to hit the road, kill zombies in grand comic fashion and add a few new faces to the franchise.
Zoey Deutch is the best of the bunch, and it’s not even close.
— Primetweets (@Primetweets_PT) October 16, 2019
She plays Madison, a Valley Girl cliche that feels immediately stale. Tell that to Deutch. She brings a similar offbeat charm to the role that the great Annie Murphy delivers on “Schitt’s Creek.”
Madison is a scene stealer in a clingy pink track suit.
FAST FACT: 2009’s “Zombieland” earned $75 million at the U.S. box office on a $24 million budget.
The other fresh faces strain to keep up with her. Rosario Dawson is the tough-as-nails type, the kind every 21st century film must feature. She’s too good to play down to that caricature, though, and she’s got great chemistry with ol’ Tallahassee.
The less said about Little Rock’s new flame, a paint-by numbers hippie (Avan Jogia), the better.
“Double Tap” packs a few more surprises which shant be spoiled here. Be sure to “nut up” for a cameo that must have sounded inspired on paper but reeks of comic desperation.
That also describes Harrelson at times. He’s mugging so broadly you fear he might pull a muscle before the jokes finally land. He’s a sharp comic actor, but director Ruben Fleischer (“Venom”) pushes him too hard, too often.
The “Cheers” alum shines when he falls back on his raw charisma.
“Double Tap” has plenty of the latter, no doubt. And it’s fun to see an Oscar winner like Stone sell her scenes without looking embarrassed. She needn’t feel ashamed of revisiting a joyful, clever franchise.
HiT or Miss: “Zombieland: Double Tap” can’t measure up to the giddy original, but a game cast and some genuinely funny moments make this a sure bet for zom-com fanatics.