R | | Action, Comedy, Horror | 18 October 2019 (USA)
The original 2009 “Zombieland” was an instant cult classic due to not-yet-stars Emma Stone and Jesse Eisenberg wafting some Who Are Those Guys? star-power mystique about, and Woody Harrelson smack-dab in his wheelhouse of hilarious hicks, like the one on “Cheers” that kick-started his showbiz career. The fourth cast member, Abigail Breslin, had budding potential that begged the question: Will this child-actor have legs? (“legs” as in career longevity).
It also checked many Americana boxes. There were the characters’ names—Tallahassee, Columbus, Wichita, and Little Rock. Like James Bond creator Ian Fleming pointed out, the names of American cities and states, with their numerous Native origins, are exotic:
“… freight cars bearing names from all over the States—’Lackawanna,’ ‘Chesapeake and Ohio,’ ‘Lehigh Valley,’ ‘Seaboard Fruit Express,’ and the lilting ‘Acheson, Topeka, and Santa Fe’—names that held all the romance of the American railroads. ‘British Railways?’ thought (James) Bond. He sighed and turned his thoughts back to the present adventure.”
So, thus far, “Zombieland” had going for it 1) nascent star power, 2) Americana romance of state and city names, and then 3) there were also Ferris wheels. Distant Ferris wheels on the horizon, twinkling with lights in the dusk, are hugely Americana-ish. “Zombieland” had some. And zombies. “Zombieland” tapped into a uniquely American, trick-or-treat-y, carnivalesque, Halloween-ness.
Does “Zombieland 2” recapture the magic? Somewhat. However, this time Emma Stone is an Oscar winner, Jesse Eisenberg was Oscar-nominated for portraying Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, and Woody Harrelson was likewise nominated for “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” And Abigail Breslin is still with us. It turned out, she had legs. So, what once contained an atmosphere of mystery … all those unspoken questions have been answered. Takes a tiny bit of fun out of it.
What Do They Do?
The original four have now taken up residence at the White House, which is a shambles because the zombie apocalypse is still going strong. And Wichita and Columbus are having a relationship. He proposes to her using the actual Hope Diamond, which was lying around in the White House. She’s not having it.
OK, let me stop right here: This is an immediate problem. In the original, we had no idea Emma Stone would eventually belong to the rarefied club of ginger-screen sirens like Rita Hayworth and Katharine Hepburn. In 2009 we were able to semi-buy her being attracted to über-nerdy Columbus. But now? Just no.
Anyway, she leaves the White House with her little sister, who wants to find a boyfriend. The girls are soon replaced by Madison (Zoey Deutch). Madison’s a pink-sweatsuit-wearing Valley girl, who’s survived zombies by living in a frozen yogurt store freezer. She bubbles ceaselessly with the low-brain-wattage effervescence for which her species is known.
As Deutch (who is “Back to the Future” actress Lea Thompson’s daughter) says in a YouTube interview, “I grew up in the Valley, so I’ve been studying this accent for 24 years.” Practice makes perfect—Deutch’s ditziness steals the movie out from under her co-stars.
But Then Wichita Comes Back
Wichita returns to the White House because Little Rock has taken up with millennial neo-hippie Berkeley (Avan Jogia), who pretends to make up songs, like the lead character in “Yesterday,” and carries a giant stash of weed. Since Tallahassee has protective, avuncular feelings for Little Rock, they go looking for her.
They end up in Graceland, because Tallahassee is an Elvis buff. Naturally, scores of zombies are terminated en route, with gatling guns, shotguns, grenade launchers, folding chairs, metal trays, etc. There’s a fun bit about how there are now different species of zombie, like one labeled a “Homer,” due to exceptional stupidity, and the “T 800,” which you have to kill many times for it to stop crawling after you.
Graceland’s in worse shape than the White House, but since one of the most Americana things in America is Elvis, there’s a Graceland-themed roadhouse, run by Nevada (Rosario Dawson). Take a wild guess: Will Tallahassee make Nevada feel that her temperature is risin’?
Then, Albuquerque (Luke Wilson) and Flagstaff (Thomas Middleditch) arrive in a monster truck that squashes Tallahassee’s monster truck flat. This duo is just like Tallahassee and Columbus.
Alike, in a similar way to how the time-honored success formula for rock bands is pairing a loud-mouthed, spandex-wearing banty rooster lead singer with a taciturn, introverted lead-guitar hero. Meaning that here, the formula that apparently insures survival success in the zombie apocalypse is the pairing of a trash-talking redneck-y alpha male with an über-geek, who spouts a list of at least 50 safety rules.
So the two geeks conspiratorially compare survival rules, while the two alphas have a dispute about the awesomeness of their trucks.
Before long, they all arrive at the Disney-fied hippie commune where Little Rock and Berkeley now live. Legions of zombies are headed that way, of course. The mass killing of the undead that goes on here is kind of inspired. Here’s a hint: lemmings.
You Could do Worse in Terms of a Halloween Movie
I invite you, à la a 1983 Kool & The Gang lyric, to go and “Ha-ha-ha-haaave some fun!” Because we’re living in the actual zombie apocalypse. What? You think people with their faces sucked down their various smart screens aren’t a form of zombie? That the legions of fentanyl, meth, and oxycodone addicts strung out across our great nation aren’t zombies? Oh it’s the Zombiepocalypse alright. Never doubt it for a minute—bwa-hahahahaha! All the dark minions and rotten demons of the underworld are collaborating to waylay our souls and chew our faces off. Beware!
But it’s good to laugh at zombies …
‘Zombieland 2: Double Tap’
Director: Ruben Fleischer
Starring: Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, Jesse Eisenberg, Zoey Deutch, Rosario Dawson, Luke Wilson, Thomas Middleditch, Avan Jogia
Running Time: 1 hour, 39 minutes
Release Date: Oct. 18
Rated: 3 stars out of 5