Zombieland: Double Tap

It took ten years to get a sequel to Zombieland. The wait was worth it. There are hazards in taking so long to do a follow-up. Can the magic be recreated after all that time? Will anyone still care? The answers are yes and yes. In the original, one of the main characters, Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), has a saying: “Nut up or shut up.” Zombieland: Double Tap nuts up. The movie has crazier action, more outlandish comedy, and a mid-credits scene that will go down in the history books. As with most sequels, the sense of discovery is lost. Nevertheless, this is an unexpectedly enjoyable second part.

When we reunite with Tallahassee, Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), Wichita (Emma Stone), and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin), they're living in the White House and generally avoiding zombies. Even without the immediate threat of undead attack, there are problems. One is that the romance between Columbus and Wichita comes to an abrupt end. Another is that Little Rock craves the companionship of people her own age. When she runs off with a hippie musician, Berkeley (Avan Jogia), the others hit the road in search of her.

Double Tap effectively builds on elements that were introduced in the first film. Relationships between the characters develop in interesting ways. Wichita is scared off by Columbus's desire for commitment, only to grow jealous when he starts a fling with a bubble-head named Madison (Zoey Deutch) he meets while scavenging for supplies in an abandoned shopping mall. Little Rock, meanwhile, feels that Tallahassee goes overboard in trying to be a protective father figure. Adding depth to interactions between the quartet helps prevent the movie from feeling as though it's simply retreading its predecessor. Tossing in a new breed of harder-to-kill zombies helps, as well.

Appealing additions also keep things fresh. The gang crosses paths with a tough-as-nails Elvis museum curator named Nevada (Rosario Dawson), plus two guys named Albuquerque (Luke Wilson) and Flagstaff (Thomas Middleditch) who have an uncanny resemblance to Tallahassee and Columbus. By far, the best addition is Deutch. Everything she does as the dim-bulb Madison is hilarious. If this role doesn't finally vault her onto the A-list, something is very, very wrong. The actress steals the entire picture.

Zombieland: Double Tap has more of the sarcastic jokes and off-the-wall humor that made the original so entertaining. Writers Dave Callaham, Rhett Reese, and Paul Wernick craft sharp one-liners and clever scenarios for the characters. In the movie's best moments, comedy and gore collide, as in the sequence where a monster truck is used as a weapon against the undead. As crazy as things get, the prime focus is smartly always on the people.

Even if not every joke lands and the gag about Columbus's set of rules is repeated a little too often, Zombieland: Double Tap offers a lot of fun, thanks to the efforts of the ensemble cast and director Ruben Fleischer's energetic direction. Whatever you do, don't bolt for the exits once the end credits start to roll. The movie is good, but that mid-credits scene is great.

out of four

Zombieland: Double Tap is rated R for bloody violence, language throughout, some drug and sexual content. The running time is 1 hour and 39 minutes.