Ten years on from the original Zombieland, Ruben Fleischer gets the band back together for another jokey jaunt through the undead apocalypse. It’s quite the logistical feat given his core cast of four have accrued six Oscar noms over the intervening decade and – in Emma Stone’s case – the coveted award itself. The same period has also seen The Walking Dead emerge as the predominant proponent of zombie lore – a fact Fleischer snarkily acknowledges by having Jesse Eisenberg’s Columbus leaf through a TWD comic and deem it “totally unrealistic”.
What’s truly unrealistic, though, is going into Zombieland: Double Tap with the expectation it will administer the same jolt of blood-splattered exhilaration as its 2009 predecessor. There’s certainly no paucity of carnage: an opening massacre on the White House’s lawn immediately sets the tone with its slo-mo gunplay and multiple exploding heads. Once the bullets stop flying, alas, it quickly becomes evident that it’s simply not as much fun spending time with Jesse’s nerd, Woody Harrelson’s redneck and Stone and Abigail Breslin’s sister act as it used to be.
Fleischer clearly reached the same conclusion, given his decision to send his protagonists off on separate adventures and, in Breslin’s case, effectively sideline her completely. The upside is a welcome infusion of new blood, most of it emanating from Zoey Deutch’s mallrat. The downside is a bitty, halting and largely directionless structure that not even the introduction of a new, virtually unkillable zombie can lend urgency or tension.
But just when you’re ready to notch this up as another inferior sequel on Rosario Dawson’s CV, Fleischer throws in a priceless call-back Easter egg that’ll send you home grinning from ear to ear. Flawed though Double Tap undoubtedly is, we wouldn’t rule out a Zombieland 3 in another decade.