The weekend before Halloween is notoriously bad for new releases. Everyone is going to want to see a Halloween movie, so it doesn’t pay to release something outside of horror or at least a horror-themed comedy. But it also doesn’t really pay to release a Halloween movie, because those movies have a shelf life of exactly one weekend and then they’re passé. The “big” new movie in the slot this year was the horror movie “Countdown,” which was never going to be any more than a one-weekend wonder. It didn’t even pull that off, opening at #5 at the weekend box office amidst terrible reviews. I saw it, and yeah, it was garbage. The rest of the chart saw “Joker” (which I’ve already reviewed) reclaim the #1 spot, “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” (which I’ve already reviewed) slip to #2, “The Addams Family” (which I’ve already reviewed) perk up a spot to #3, and “Zombieland: Double Tap” at #4. I haven’t reviewed that last one yet, so thank you, “Zombieland: Double Tap,” for saving me from having to think too hard about “Countdown.”
“Zombieland” was a 2009 comedy about survivors of a zombie apocalypse joining forces and going on a wacky road trip looking for a safe haven and Twinkies. The new film opens with the same four survivors (Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, and Abagail Breslin) finding such a haven in the abandoned White House. I don’t know how safe the White House would be in such a situation, my understanding is that it has many, many staffers, so there should be no shortage of zombies roaming about. But I can forgive this stretch of logic because it leads to gags like a portrait of William Howard Taft (the only President to also serve as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court… and also the really heavy one who got stuck in a bathtub) being used as cheap wrapping paper for what I understand to be the only gun a civilian ever got into the Oval Office.
The team splits up, with Stone and Breslin ditching the boys, but then Stone rejoins them after Breslin ditches her to run off with a phony musician (Avan Jogia). The group picks up an idiotic new fourth member (Zoey Deutch) and they trade the house of the President for the house of The King. Well, not Graceland per se, but an Elvis-themed nearby hotel run by Rosario Dawson and frequented by Harrelson and Eisenberg clones Luke Wilson and Thomas Middleditch. Eventually the group has to go protect Breslin in a hippie commune that doesn’t believe in guns, but does believe in zombie-attracting fireworks.
I don’t have a lot of strong opinions about “Zombieland: Double Tap.” Most of the jokes land (my favorite gag has a certain Italian landmark finally toppling after 800 years) and most of the action is funny and compelling. I could have used more of it in place of the constant tension over the team splitting up. We get it, they’re a dysfunctional family; they’re going to argue, but they’re going to be there for each other in the end. We got beaten over the head with this concept in the first “Zombieland,” there’s no reason to keep doing it here. Also, I worry about fingers getting bitten in the climactic zombie battle. Still, I liked this movie just fine. It’s worth a viewing circa Halloween and then forgotten soon after.
“Zombieland: Double Tap” is rated R for bloody violence, language throughout, some drug and sexual content. Its running time is 99 minutes.
Robert R. Garver is a graduate of the Cinema Studies program at New York University. His weekly movie reviews have been published since 2006.