It’s been 10 years since the original, but Zombieland seems like yesterday to the returning cast: Woody Harrelson as the redneck warrior Tallahassee; Jesse Eisenberg as the nerdy Columbus; Emma Stone as seen-it-all Wichita; and Abigail Breslin as Little Rock, her little sister. In case you forgot, they’re all named after their birth cities. Never mind that there’s been a zombie media apocalypse since 2009 and a sell-by date is fast approaching. Plus, in the interim, the stars have all become pretty big deals. Stone took home an Oscar for La La Land, Harrelson picked up a nomination for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Eisenberg won his nod for playing Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network and Little Miss Sunshine Abigail Breslin grew up. But no one’s putting on airs. Zombieland: Double Tap has the tossed-off feeling of an impromptu party, and audiences are the better for it.
The fearless foursome is now living in the abandoned, ramshackle White House. Columbus and Wichita get it on in the Lincoln Bedroom, but when he proposes she panics and walks out, taking her sister with her. That leaves Tallahassee and Columbus on their own until they find Madison (Zoey Deutch) hiding in the freezer of a frozen-yogurt store. The newcomer is basically playing a dumb, Valley Girl cliché, but she steals every scene she’s in. Deeming Tallahassee too geezer-ish, she jumps in bed with Columbus for lack of anything better to do.
Zombies? Everyone’s so accustomed to crushing flesheaters with guns, hatchets, and anything else handy that they hardly break a sweat. It’s the return of Wichita with news that Little Rock has run off with a pacifist hippie from Berkeley (Avan Jogia) that gets the plot moving. The search takes them on a road trip to an overgrown Graceland, leaving legions of headless zombies in their wake. Luckily, it’s the R-rated banter among the actors that takes precedence over squashed skulls. Harrelson has more fun than anyone — it’s hard to tell if Stone is playing bored or actually feeling it — tossing zingers and doing his impression of the King when he hooks up in Memphis with fellow Elvis fanatic Nevada (a delicious Rosario Dawson).
Returning director Ruben Fleischer, who now has Venom on his resume, milks every laugh he can from a script by Expendables scribe Dave Callaham and Deadpool jokesters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick. But the sight gags smack of desperation when Luke Wilson and Thomas Middleditch show up as bizarro versions of Tallahassee and Columbus. And the free-for-all climax set in a hippie commune with armies of zombies attacking like lemmings is a virtual recap of the 2009 apocalypse with diminishing returns. Still, there’s no sense coming down too hard on a movie that’s so eager to please. Turns out a double dip of Zombieland goes down easy when you see it for the irresistible escapism it is.