1 Hr., 39 Mins.
Zombieland: Double Tap October 28, 2019
sequel to 2009’s Zombieland was never necessary, and its long-delayed follow-up, this year’s Zombieland: Double Tap, proves it: this movie is a laugh-free and breathtakingly misogynistic affair. The film is set a decade after the original — something cheekily commented on, through a meta voiceover, early on. Nothing has especially changed on a large scale over the last 10 years. The zombie apocalypse that took
over the world back then is still going strong, and the central cast of characters who became a makeshift family of survivors in the first movie — the overbearing Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), the deceptively meek Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), the realistic Wichita (Emma Stone), and the latter’s nail-tough sister, Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) — have remained together. What’s different now is that Tallahassee has taken on a father-figure role for the increasingly stir-crazy Little Rock. Columbus and Wichita’s once-budding romance has since gotten so serious that, early in the film, Columbus proposes marriage.
These recent developments are what lead to conflict in Double Tap. Wichita, afraid of commitment, is spooked by Columbus’s marital interest. Little Rock is tired of being coddled and minimized. Now a little into her 20s, she’s anxious to explore the world for herself, even though that exploring by necessity comes with limitations. A little into the first act, Wichita and Little Rock unsurprisingly split, leaving a curt note behind to acknowledge their departure. But trouble starts to really brew when Little Rock ditches her sister for a poser musician (Avan Jogia) she meets while they’re on the road.
Zombieland: Double Tap turns into something of a search-and-rescue mission of a movie. But it’s more so about the romantic conflict that comes with it. Shortly after Columbus and Wichita break up, the former by coincidence runs into a woman named Madison (Zoey Deutch) while he and Tallahassee are looking through an abandoned mall to kill time. After Columbus and Madison meet in a candle shop, she reveals that she’s been surviving all these years by hiding in the freezer of an old Pinkberry.
The introduction of this narrative element is where my enjoyment of the movie turned to dust. Madison is portrayed as an egregiously stereotypical 2009-era bimbo, parading around in pink Juicy Couture tracksuits and always with her makeup and hair done to Hefneresque perfection. She speaks in the sort of woman-baby voice that tends to bubble up in movies trying to write off someone as an airhead. None of the characteristics Madison possesses are bad to have for oneself, but Double Tap seems to think that anyone who resembles Madison in the slightest should be ashamed of themselves. The film incessantly and uncleverly makes fun of her; her vapidness is something it plainly detests.
Madison and Columbus hook up shortly after their first meeting, and from there she becomes a romantic rival. But the juxtaposition between Madison and Wichita is clearly meant to say that one woman is deserving of our respect while the other isn’t. Wichita is someone you settle down with; Madison is a nothing you sleep with. I hated the film’s treatment of her; Deutch, though giving it her all, can't help matters.
The inclusion of Madison ruins the movie not necessarily because this kind of character should be unwelcome but because Ruben Fleischer, the director, and the writers, Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick, and Dave Callaham, have made their misogyny so clear that the film couldn’t sit right with me thereafter. Even when Madison is briefly out of the fray, Zombieland: Double Tap provides us with no new interesting ideas that might make it otherwise worth a look. Most notably there’s a pit stop at an Elvis-themed hotel, where the gang comically runs into a couple of lookalikes (Luke Wilson and Thomas Middleditch) and Tallahassee gains a potential love interest in the business’s cool proprietor Nevada (Rosario Dawson, better than she needs to be). But this is just more Cousin Oliver-ing on top of the Cousin Oliver-ing done via the Madison character. There’s an effective-enough zombie-versus-survivor showdown at a well-guarded but weapons-free skyscraper haven called Babylon during the film’s last act, but even that’s sort of ruined by the mockery of its inhabitants, who would understandably rather not fight fire with fire in a horrible-enough world, before the battle begins. It’s here that the movie climatically clarifies that it’s not only misogynistic but also a smidge right-leaning.
Was the 2009 Zombieland this bad? I loved the movie growing up; it played on TV often and whenever I could I’d tune in. I thought it was a great hang-out movie; I liked spending time with these people. Fleischer, to my eye, did a good job admixing zombie-movie staples with charmingly sarcastic dark humor. But it’s been a few years since I saw it last. After watching Double Tap I’m not so sure I trust my old self. I know for sure that I’ve changed since I was a Zombieland fan all those years ago, but the likelihood that Fleischer and his collaborators haven’t is high. If they believe in the weirdly conservative shit they’re espousing in Double Tap, what might they have had in mind a decade ago? C-