‘Zombieland: Double Tap’ Film Review: Bigger Scale, Lesser Effort
On the tenth anniversary of the original Zombieland‘s release, the old gang returns to kill more zombies and exchange more banter.
Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone
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We reunite with the group as they clear the White House of zombies and take up residence there. Soon, however, they find themselves languishing. When Little Rock and Wichita leave, the men are left on their own to abuse one another with witticisms. This dynamic between the alpha male cowboy Harrelson and the nervous, geeky Eisenberg is arguably the best part of the film, and their banter is perhaps the only element of the script that keeps the story afloat.
Unfortunately, the creators bet everything on banter and the occasional zombie-killing spree, though even that seemed in short supply until the final showdown.
The film opens with Eisenberg’s expositional voice-over narration, the hallmark of lazy storytelling, which introduces a world and characters whom we should rather like to meet through the central cinematic mediums of sight and sound. Then it takes the screenwriters an unnecessarily long time to establish the main plot line as a rescue mission for Little Rock, who takes up with a pacifist hippie and moves to a commune. All the while, however, this set-up fails to invest the characters’ actual motivations with any emotion whatsoever, as the dialogue resorts to banal clichés about “finding a home” and the like whenever something of emotional significance is at stake.
This creates the impression that the main characters don’t have any real drives at all, but the truth is they have potential to be believable, three-dimensional characters, if only the filmmakers put as much effort into story development as they did into punchlines and fight choreography. It also doesn’t help that certain characters in the film, both leading and supporting ones, change their values or goals on a dime for the plot’s convenience.
Aside from that, Double Tap more or less successfully recreates the aesthetic and atmosphere of the original Zombieland. The humor is still there, as are the zombies, except this time around they are harder to kill. The final battle, which unfortunately doesn’t feel like a culmination, but simply a bigger episode in a series of episodes, has a fun and visually impressive climax, where the one useful motif the script has managed to develop pays off in spectacular fashion.
This sequel will likely be enjoyable for fans who’ve been waiting for it for ten long years, a time span in which the market of zombie comedy has grown, especially in the realm of independent cinema (for example Warm Bodies, Life After Beth). Given that up-and-coming filmmakers are trying their hand in the genre with their original ideas, the somewhat uninspired writing in Double Tap may not be enough to impress moviegoers, despite the star power. The lukewarm critical reception so far seems to indicate this, too.
‘Zombieland: Double Tap’ premieres in cinemas on Friday, October 25.