Uninspired popcorn fare that fails to deliver the same heart and humor of the first zom-com romp.

IMDB Synopsis: Columbus, Tallahassee, Wichita, and Little Rock move to the American heartland as they face off against evolved zombies, fellow survivors, and the growing pains of the snarky makeshift family.

Zombieland: Double Tap, the sequel to the 2009 breakout hit, Zombieland, is totally fine. For a forgettable, but enjoyable time at the movie theaters, you could do a lot worse than the latest zom-com fare from Director Ruben Fleischer. That being said, Zombieland 2 feels a lot hollower than its 2009 precursor. Boasting the same characters, the same jokes, even the same art direction, Z2 feels a lot like a studio cash grab, despite its best intentions. And while the original—and incredibly acclaimed—cast of Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, Jesse Eisenberg, and Abigail Breslin are back, they return to a high-stakes post-apocalyptic world with a low-stakes plot.

We pick up with the gang as they’ve taken up residence at the White House (a criminally under-utilized set). The newfound family is suffering some suburban ennui, so Wichita (Stone) and Little Rock (Breslin) take a page from the first movie and bolt, complete with a poorly written goodbye note. Licking their wounds, Tallahassee (Harrelson) and Columbus (Eisenberg) go for some retail therapy and stumble upon the movie’s bright spot, Madison (Zoey Deutch). Then Wichita returns as Little Rock has taken off with hippie pacifist Berkeley (Avan Jogia), as if at the literal end of the world, all Breslin’s character can think of is finding a boyfriend.

There’s the entire conceit of the movie: Wichita, Columbus, Tallahassee, and newcomer Madison, are on the road to find Wichita and Berkeley. The runaway duo are headed for hippie paradise, Babylon, a violence-free safety zone where no guns are allowed (but multiple cringeworthy references to group sex unfortunately are). Along the way there are some humorous bits (An Eisenberg/Harrelson doppelgänger duo played by Luke Wilson and Thomas Middleditch), multiple Terminator references to a new evolved zombie type, and a great cameo by Rosario Dawson as the Elvis-loving badass, Nevada. But the bits are mostly recycled from the beloved first movie, and they mostly go on too long. Even the finale action set piece at Babylon is neither inventive or particularly engaging. It’s fine.

At a crisp 99 minutes, Z2 mercifully zips along. The camera work is mostly good (albeit a little reliant on Phantom slow-mo), and if you’re looking for some gore, Zombieland mostly delivers. The original cast phones it (Emma Stone is the best of the bunch), but they are charismatic enough to keep you engaged. But any attempt at an injection of life is mostly wasted, as the new characters are thinly drawn caricatures at best (a hippie that likes patchouli and weed?).

At one point, Tallahassee asks, “Do you know why she’s still alive?” in regards to Madison, “Because zombies eat brains, and she ain’t got any!” But art imitates life. Why are we getting a Zombieland sequel? Zombie movies are supposed to have heart and smarts, and this movie comes up short. Although, at the end of the day, if you’re looking for some popcorn escapism, you could do worse than Zombieland: Double Tap. It’s just that you could also do a lot better (like 2018’s One Cut of the Dead).

Highlights: Unfortunately, there aren’t many highlights. The Luke Wilson and Thomas MIddleditch bit is funny (at first). Emma Stone showing she can carry an uninspired film proves why she’s one of the best working.

MVP: Even though her character is pretty shallowly written, I think Zoey Deutch steals every scene she’s in.

Should you see it: You could do worse for popcorn fare. But is it essential, even in the genre? I think not. 5.5/10.

Director: Ruben Fleischer

Studio: Sony/Columbia // Original release date: October 18, 2019