I was totally surprised when a trailer for Zombieland Double Tap dropped onto the cinema screen in front of me a few months ago. I hadn’t thought of the original, which came out ten years ago, since I saw it, and, frankly, I’d forgotten it existed. Seeing the trailer, I felt like I’d missed some cultural phenomenon: wow, Zombieland must have become a… thing!
Maybe, maybe not. One of my film students, who was 12 when the original came out and only discovered it later when given a digital copy by a friend, loves it, has watched it multiple times, and can’t wait to see this new one. Who knew? Not me.
Anyway, the sequel’s not good. Woody Harrelson and Jesse Eisenberg do their best to energise the dialogue, but it’s all too self-conscious, and self-satisfied, to be playable. It would have been better in balloons on a comic-book page rather than on a big screen being said aloud. A lot of the lines are cringe-inducing in their desperation. Emma Stone is wasted, given little to do other than sulk – a crime against talent – and Abigail Breslin, who was nine when the first film was made, has grown up to be a flat actor. If she wants to keep going, maybe some classes would help.
The liveliest presence is Zoey Deutch, but her role is really problematic: she simply plays an old-school bimbo, right down to the blond hair and the pink outfit, and, when she’s not going for laughs by playing very dumb, Harrelson is going for them by commenting on her dumbness. It’s an astonishingly tone-deaf character for our time, but it’s all the film has; without Deutch’s idiot schtick, there’d be nothing to laugh at at all.