Sunday, 20 October 2019

Zombieland - Double Tap

The Tappening

Zombieland - Double Tap
Directed by Ruben Fleischer
2019 USA
UK cinema release print.

Wow. it’s been ten years already, to the month apparently, since the first Zombieland hit cinemas and received a warm welcome from audiences across the globe. It had a certain easy charm and a lot of gut wrenching humour in the movie but it’s taken a while to get to this sequel, which is also set quite a time after the first film, with the four main actors reprising their roles... Woody Harrelson as Talahasse, Jesse Eisenberg as Columbus, Emma Stone as Wichita and Abigail Breslin as Little Rock. Normally when a sequel takes a long time in its gestation period, the cast and crew are always quick to say that they were waiting until the script was properly developed and right and, you know what? I wouldn’t have minded it a bit if they’d have claimed the same thing about this one because, if anything, Zombieland - Double Tap is even funnier and at least as smart and self aware as the first movie.

This film starts with our four friends making their way through the post apocalyptic Zombieland and using The White House as their home before things get messed up and the two girls take off again. Columbus re-finds love... okay, re-finds sex... when he discovers the hilariously airheaded Madison, played by Zoey Deutch and things get even sillier as the writers do not use her as a throwaway character and she has a role to play in this... including making Wichita jealous when she regroups with the other two.

Why does Wichita come back? Well, Little Rock has found love with a peaceful but impossibly naive pacifist who is taking her to the ‘safe haven’ of Babylon, populated by peace loving folk who burn all their weapons and turn them into jewellery. Trouble with that is... things are getting even more dangerous out there in Zombieland, with a new breed of hard-to-kill zombies beginning to appear. So the remaining four go on a road trip to catch up with her and, on the way...

... they meet a few new characters, in addition to Madison. There’s Luke Wilson and Thomas Middleditch, for example, playing bizarrely similar characters to Talahasse and Columbus, which may seem like a bit of an obvious ploy for comedy antics and, indeed, it is... but like the first film, the writers are well aware of what they are doing and make sure the audience know they are not trying to dumb it down for the viewing public. The scenes with these two are actually very funny and they don’t outstay their welcome. Also, one of my favourite actresses, Rosario Dawson, gets a pretty decent role here as another new character, Nevada... so I was happy.

There are quite a few shout backs to the original movie in this one... so if you haven’t seen it in a while, you might like to re-watch it quickly before going to see this... like a wonderful scene where our main protagonists find out that Columbus’ accidental killing of Bill Murray (playing himself) in the first movie has spawned a verb amongst the surviving human population in those areas. There’s also Columbus’ rules and various typographic shenanigans lit up on screen via the use of CGI which really move the film along and tug at the funny bone in some cases (try and read them all because there are some great throwaway lines hidden in the words here).

Now, it would be true there are no real surprises in the movie... a ploy where something happens to one of the characters halfway through the story to cause their hasty exit from the film for a while didn’t fool me one bit, for example, with exactly what I thought was actually going on (down to the specific manifestation of symptoms... trying not to spoil it here) actually turning out to be the case. However, because the script is so intelligent in terms of the dialogue and the way that dialogue functions, which seems to be a trait built into the cynicism of the characters, thus allowing the audience to know that they are ‘in on the joke’... means that even the ‘not so surprising surprises’ are not exactly disappointing and, honestly, just add to the fun here. In fact, I rarely laugh at comedies (even when I love them) but this one did get a good number of chuckles from me during the screening.

Also, like the first one, the film doesn’t skimp on the goriness normally associated with the zombie genre (even zombie comedies like this one) and, although it does kind of 'normalise' the violence somewhat... in a non-jaded manner... it does also get a few laughs on occasion, especially when Columbus is running us through the zombie-types which they have now become known to the group as.

And, this was a near perfect movie for me. If I had to say the one thing that disappointed me about this one, then I’d have to say it’s that there are no references to Twinkie Bars in the sequel, given that they played such an important role in the first film. Honestly though, it doesn’t really matter here because the quality of the script is such that I’m willing to forgive small character continuity traits like this and, as Columbus points out in his running voice-over narrative at the start of the film, the characters have moved on a little since the first one. There was even a true moment of suspense towards the end of the film when the fate of one of the main characters hangs in the balance... which was pretty good going from the director here, since it’s a comedy.

So there you go. That’s me more or less done on Zombieland - Double Tap other than to say, if you liked the first movie then you’ll probably really like this one and, a quick word to stay around past the credits... there are mid credits and post credits extra scenes, both a shout out to a specific, audience pleasing sequence in the first film so, you know, don’t run for the exits when the end credits start playing out. Also, if you do stay, know that it’s actually Woody Harrelson covering a song over the end credits too so... you know... stay in your seat for a bit.

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