In 2011, two years after the first Zombieland hit theaters, Fox and Sony announced plans for a television series based on the hit horror comedy. In 2013 Amazon commissioned a pilot for Zombieland: The Series based on a script by original writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick. The sequel followed the characters from the film, who were replaced by new and lesser-known actors. Just two months later, Amazon declined to move forward with the Zombieland series. A film sequel seemed increasingly unlikely as the years wore on, but this week – 10 years after the first film was released – a new Zombieland movie hits theaters. But maybe it should've been a TV series after all.
Reese and Wernick reunite with director Ruben Fleischer and the original cast – Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, and Abigail Breslin – for Zombieland: Double Tap, which aptly picks up 10 years after the events of the first film. Columbus and Wichita have settled into a pleasant (if predictable) relationship, while Tallahassee remains as feisty and firearm-happy as ever, and Little Rock (now a full-fledged teenager) yearns for anything resembling a normal teenage life. After taking up residence in the abandoned White House, Columbus awkwardly proposes to Wichita in an ill-considered effort to spice things up, and Little Rock decides it's time to leave the nest – along with her overbearing father figure, Tallahassee. With the women out of the house, the men effortlessly revert to their bachelor lifestyle, but it's not long before Wichita returns with unfortunate news: Little Rock has taken off with an acoustic guitar-playing faux-hippie named Berkley. And so the gang gets back together to find Little Rock and bring her home, whatever that means in a country overrun by the undead.
The original cast remains largely unchanged: Stone and Eisenberg are predictably cute together, and the latter seems to have grown more charming in the intervening years; Breslin brings a grounded vibe to the older (but not much wiser) Little Rock, avoiding the usual pitfalls of playing a rebellious teen; and Harrelson is, well, he's Woody Harrelson. Sadly, he's the sequel's weakest link, though the blame doesn't fall entirely on his shoulders. Harrelson certainly phones it in, but his schtick grows tiresome thanks to Reese and Wernick's script, which includes no fewer than four instances of "Nut up or shut up" – a line that isn't nearly as humorous (or as enjoyable of a callback) as they seem to believe.
But Double Tap really comes alive with the introduction of new characters, offering Columbus a fresh audience for his rules and giving Tallahassee the opportunity to reignite his charisma. Zoey Deutch is the inarguable standout as Madison, a ditzy and superficial blonde Columbus stumbles upon in a mall candle store. Deutch handily subverts the dumb blonde trope, fully commiting to the character and lending her some tangible humanity. The remaining newcomers serve as comedic foils for the core group: Luke Wilson is an arrogant southerner who fancies himself a rugged, old school hero-type; Thomas Middleditch is a socially-awkward geek obsessed with a set of "commandments" he's developed to survive the zombie apocalypse; and Rosario Dawson is essentially the female Tallahasse – a lone wolf who takes up residence in Graceland, home of the one true King.
Double Tap plays out in a series of episodic encounters with the tone and feel (and, unfortunately, the look) of a television series. The zombies themselves have a much smaller part to play this time around, save for the new and advanced "T-800" zombies, which are more indestructible and quicker than their predecessors, but even they take a backseat to the human interactions. And that's fine. While it's a mostly entertaining ride, the overall narrative is slight and the jokes – though amusing – are largely forgettable. That's also fine. But Double Tap might've functioned better as a limited TV series: The pacing is not that dissimilar from something you'd watch on Netflix, with 20-minute stretches devoted entirely to banter and dialogue followed by a brief climactic scene involving zombies. It wouldn't be surprising to learn that Reese and Wernick had repurposed much of their TV script for the film sequel. Which, again, is fine. And that's it: Zombieland: Double Tap is mostly just fine. There are far worse ways to spend a couple of hours at the movies, but at least a bad movie would be a little more memorable than this.