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Zombieland: Double Tap

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The opening scenes of Zombieland: Double Tap play like the production might be the premier episode of Zomblieland: The TV Show. When Woody Harrelson and Jesse Eisenberg appear immediately following the opening credits they seem less like characters in a movie and more like actors walking onto a set before a live studio audience. Ditto Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin in the subsequent scene. Of course, that studio audience is us. We know these guys. They’re friends of ours. “Nooorm!”

One of the criticisms of Double Tap has been that there isn’t much of a storyline. To which I reply: “Storyline!?! We don’t need no stinkin’ storyline!!” Just set these folks up and turn ‘em loose. I really enjoy watching these characters doing whatever they’re doing, even when they’re not doing much of anything at all.

It’s often (not always, but often) a good idea to know what kind of movie you’re going into before you get to the theater, and that’s the case with Double Tap.

While there is the requisite amount of loquacious banter among our heroes, we’re not here to be dazzled by the eloquence of the writers or by directorial craftsmanship. We want characters we love played by actors we love behaving preposterously in absurd situations, and Double Tap delivers.   

How much fun has it been to watch Harrelson’s sweet, innocent, none-to bright Woody from the TV classic, Cheers, evolve into the good-hearted, loyal but none-too-bright (and possibly homicidal) Tallahassee of the Zombieland franchise?

I generally don’t care much for movies that employ a narrator – Goodfellas excepted. More often than not, narration is a lazy alternative to writing strong dialogue or developing a compelling story. But Eisenberg’s narration has a familiar calming effect among the chaos. And, since there’s no particularly important storyline to worry about, that’s not a problem either.

Zombieland

With regard to things I generally don’t much care for, I’m not a big fan of Statement Movies, either. Whether tackling mental handicaps, minority issues, homosexuality, mental illness, or the evolving role of women in our society, Hollywood Statements are, more often than not, self-conscious, phony, and poorly executed (see, The Other Sister).

That the three strongest characters in Double Tap are portrayed by Stone, Breslin, and in a nice extended cameo Rosario Dawson feels more organic (sorry, really sorry) to the goings-on than contrived to make a Statement. The fact that these are three ass-kickin’ women just seems obvious.

On the other hand, I found Zoey Deutch’s (Why Him) bubble-headed Valley Girl truly annoying – until I started getting used to her. Like the rest of the film, once I stopped wishing for the movie I had hoped for and started enjoying the proceedings for what they were, I began to have a great time.

Speaking of cameos, in addition to Dawson, Luke Wilson gets to chew up some scenery for a couple of minutes in the famous (infamous?) Luke\Owen Wilson fashion and Al Roker is a hoot.

If you’re wondering about the legendary cameo from the original Zombieland, well . . .

One small word of caution, thinking back on it, Zombieland circa 2009 was actually a pretty gentle affair. The mass slaughter of creatures that had once been human beings aside, the monsters were usually dispatched with one clean shot to the head, and “gosh darn it” often passed for an obscenity in the post-apocalyptic world.

During the ensuing decade, Zombieland has become a much coarser world. Tallahassee’s vocabulary, in particular, has devolved into an endless series of four, seven, and twelve letter expletives. And a decade of zombie-killing has led to some serious boredom. How else to explain the increasingly creative and gruesome ways our kids have invented for doing away with their tormentors? Think Quinton Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time in . . . Zombieland.

The only point here is that if your 10-year-old has watched the 2009 version on AMC at least a dozen times and it’s become one of her favorite movies ever, you might want to think twice about taking her to Double Tap on your next Daddy-Daughter Night. You don’t want to have to explain things to her mother’s attorneys.

Anyway, remember the final line from Zombieland? “Until next time, this is Columbus signing off . . .” Mid-movie, there’s a wonderful reflection on the inevitable brilliance of the third installment of franchises that come in threes; The Godfather, Jaws, and Garfield, for instance.  

I’m sure Double Tap’s concluding “Until next time . . .” is just a coincidence. I sure hope not, though. I really like these guys.

Ed Says Four out of Five Stars  

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