Zombieland: Double Tap content to rework the original

This decade in the making sequel to Zombieland revisits so much of the original and does so little to add anything interesting that it’s the cinematic equivalent of the walking dead, writes critic Craig Mathieson.

Whatever enjoyable memories you have of 2009’s Zombieland, an undead meta-comedy about the amusement park antics of life in a post-apocalyptic America, will be recalled by this unnecessary sequel, which summons the best scenes of the original and either recycles them or blithely adds a new riff or two by way of justification.

As an act of fan service the movie, helmed by returning director Ruben Fleischer, is dedicated but uninspiring. You can take your cue from Emma Stone, who clocks back in as part of the original starring quartet and looks like she’s either marking time until the wrap party or convinced that she can build a performance merely out of pursing her lips.

A decade after battling each other and then banding together, the named for their geographic locale Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), Little Rock (Abigail Breslin), and Wichita (Stone) have no greater problem that familiarity. The now adult Little Rock is chafing to trade in the paternal Tallahassee for a boyfriend her age, while Wichita has realised that her relationship with Columbus is in a slump. The answer is for some of the protagonists to move on, sending the remainder in pursuit, creating an episodic road movie where nothing proves to be an actual imperative.

The original work had just a trace of reality, letting slip that the gory kills and anarchic fun in the ruins were actually consolations for the harrowing deprivation that lurks behind the collapse of society. The sequel simply inflates the character’s identifiable traits – Woody Harrelson’s business manager will be very happy if the actor was paid by the aggrieved expletive – and winds them up like little Zombieland toys. Of the supporting cast Zoey Deutch makes the most impact, wringing every minor laugh possible out of somehow still alive blonde airhead Madison. Otherwise the intermittent homilies about family are as heartfelt as a debt collector’s sympathy.

The plot does have good taste in inspiration, recreating the scene from Shaun of the Dead where the survivors encounter a mirror-image group, although in this case the gag becomes a lengthy scene instead of staying as a quick flourish. By way of philosophy the film pays homage to firearms, mocking a commune whose hippie-like inhabitants believe in melting down guns and making peace symbols from the scrap metal. Naturally the red-blooded heroes have to save them.

But it’s apparent throughout that Zombieland: Double Tap will make do with the minor pleasures of reworking and replaying now familiar material. The zombies that sprint into the frame may have got faster and more cunning, but the movie itself is now slow and cumbersome.