“Zombieland: Double Tap,” the ten-years-later sequel to “Zombieland,” turns out to be one tap too many. And a tap way-heyyy too late.
The returning cast is less interested, the new characters less interesting. The violence is less shocking, the only laughs anybody appears to be going for are the cheapest ones the script provides — f-bombs.
All the freshness has gone out of it. It smells as stale as ten year-old living dead corpses.
As the voice over, by the ostensible author of “rules” to survive the zombie apocalypse, shows self-awareness, speaking directly to the audience in the theater, we might have expected a bit more honesty in advertising, or at least in break-the-fourth-wall narration.
“Zombieland 2: We Came Back for the Money.”
Jesse Eisenberg, the actor with the second most pressing need for this project, returns as Columbus — remember, everybody’s named for their hometown/state — long involved now with Wichita (Emma Stone), big brother figure to Little Rock (former child star Abigail Breslin, the actress who needed this the most) and son or “sidekick” to the redneck Dale Earnhardt fan/father-figure, Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson).
Their “family” has set up shop in the ruins of the White House, but Little Rock’s itchiness to meet somebody her own age and Wichita’s efforts to flee the clingy Columbus (he proposes with the Hope Diamond) split them up. Again.
We barely have time to get used to Columbus meeting “Miss Forever 21” Madison (Zooey Deutch, on her game) in a derelict mall, when the need for a new quest arrives. Little Rock ran off with a patchouli oil musician who’s seen “Yesterday” and figures he can get away with claiming Bob Dylan’s songs as his own.
Berkeley (Avan Jogia, playing a dull cliche) and Little Rock are on the run.
To Graceland? That’s where the family meets “Hound Dog Hotel” operator Nevada (Rosario Dawson, as tough as you’d expect) and doppelgangers for Tallahassee and Columbus named Albuquerque (Luke Wilson) and Flagstaff (Thomas Middleditch).
If Woody Harrelson can’t make Elvis jokes land, you know your movie’s in trouble. Wilson and Middleditch seem like the stars of the movie this one’s limited ambition wanted it to be — a direct-to-Netflix sequel with dull substitutes cast in the leads.
Deutch does dizzy and annoying quite well. “I’m getting a real anti ME vibe.”
The best sight gag might be a White House Christmas tree decorated with Pabst Blue Ribbon cans.
Oscar winner Stone and Eisenberg have grown apart, and there’s no retrieving what little chemistry they had in the first film. The direction is flat and listless.
Even the graphics denoting Zombieland “rules” (“Double tap,” shoot the zombie twice, is one of those) seem a lot less clever and are generally botched in presentation, here.
Harrelson’s Tallahassee has moved on to a less cool ride (a Pontiac Transporter) and a far less cool hat.
And the action climax has more in common with “Hobbes & Shaw” than it does with the original film.
It’s enough to make you wish they’d tapped out before they cut that first check, buying a sequel the cinema did not need or even ask for.
MPAA Rating: R for bloody violence, language throughout, some drug and sexual content
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Abigail Breslin, Emma Stone, Zooey Deutch, Rosario Dawson, Luke Wilson, and Woody Harrelson
Credits: Directed by Ruben Fleischer, script by Rhett Reese, Dave Callaham and Paul Wernick. A Sony/Columbia release
Running time: 1:39