Ten years is a long spell between movies, but I suppose time stands still when zombies are constantly buzzing around.
That’s what it’s been like for the four survivors of “Zombieland,” the 2009 hit. In Jesse Eisenberg’s opening narration, he thanks us for returning to the franchise “after all this time” when there’s so much zombie-related entertainment out there.
In other words, the snarky attitude hasn’t changed much in a decade. The sequel is just as jokey and just as violent as the first film, a demonstration of having it both ways.
Eisenberg again plays Columbus, a jittery and compulsive rule-maker. He’s still in love with Wichita (Emma Stone), whose younger sister Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) is now grown up.
They’re living in the White House with their crimson-necked traveling companion, Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson). He’s a good ol’ boy who likes shootin’ zombies, and the role is so easy for Harrelson to play that I think it qualifies as my least favorite performance from an actor I like a lot.
After trashing the White House for a while, the sisters take off (a less-than-credible plot point), which leads to a road trip to Graceland. There’s also a fabled hippie enclave, a safe space from zombies. Naturally, Tallahassee hates the idea, because he hates hippies and wants to beat them up, har har.
The film’s formula gets a huge boost from its newcomers, especially Zoey Deutch (“Before I Fall”) as a bubble-headed survivor who briefly gets between Columbus and Wichita. Deutch goes so far she creates an irresistibly funny original, despite the stereotype dumb-blonde role.
There’s also a clever (and too brief) passage where Tallahassee and Columbus meet their doppelgangers, as Luke Wilson and Thomas Middleditch do bizarro-world variations on the acting styles of Harrelson and Eisenberg.
Rosario Dawson is welcome as an Elvis-loving roadhouse owner, although it would’ve been nice to give her more to do. And Bill Murray’s cameo in the first “Zombieland” is answered here with a sequence that probably sounded a lot funnier than it plays.
Writer-director Ruben Fleischer (“Venom”) returns to duty, and the film has its share of workable comic routines. Like the first movie, this one’s at its best when the actors seem to be riffing on wordplay and kicking around non sequiturs; this stuff is much more enjoyable than the time spent on detailing how zombies have evolved.
I laughed, so give the movie credit. There are worse things that seeing a bunch of random bits strung together by people as sharp as Emma Stone and Zoey Deutch.
As it goes on, though, “Double Tap” grows tiresome. It’s not the alleged hilarity of destroying an endless supply of zombie bodies that bugged me, but more the general mean-spiritedness. What Fleischer thinks is edgy dark humor starts to feel like a short-cut toward a shock-laugh, and the gags at the expense of peace-loving hippies feel like pandering to the audience. These jokes aren’t just cheap, they feel 10 years out of touch.
“Zombieland: Double Tap” (2 stars)
The cast of the 2009 zombie hit returns for more carnage, this time set at the White House and the environs of Graceland. There are genuinely funny bits here, especially the random wordplay and the airhead routine from newcomer Zoey Deutch, although the mean-spiritedness of the enterprise grows tiresome. With Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone.
Rating: R, for violence, language
Opening Friday: Alderwood, Alderwood Mall, Cinebarre Mountlake Terrace, Everett Stadium, Galaxy Monroe, Marysville, Meridian, Oak Tree, Pacific Place, Seattle 10, Thornton Place, Woodinville, Cascade Mall