Emma Stone, still with her post-‘La La Land’ and ‘The Favourite’ glow yet palpably bored to be in a zombie sequel, isn’t the only thing that’s tired about this belated follow-up to 2009’s ‘Zombieland’. The redneck-liberal alliance of the first movie – embodied by Woody Harrelson’s strutting Tallahassee and Jesse Eisenberg’s neurotic Columbus (people assume the names of their hometowns in this post-apocalyptic universe) – once felt edgy. But in today’s political landscape, it’s less believable than reanimated corpses. Meanwhile, screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick have honed their R-rated snarksmanship in two ‘Deadpool’ movies. What was left to be said here?
Very little, and the film seems to realise as much. (Eisenberg even thanks the audience in a cringingly clever voiceover: ‘Everyone has choices when it comes to zombie entertainment.’) It’s extra infuriating that the new plotline does so little to justify its own existence. The gang now lives in a gone-to-seed White House – the front façade, overgrown with weeds and stray lumbering flesh-eaters, is a dreamy piece of CGI – but the new residents bicker just like they did the last time, and only Little Rock (a grown-up Abigail Breslin, underused) fantasizes about straying off the grounds. She does, triggering a rescue effort.
Heroically, ‘Double Tap’s new actors, rare though they are, save it from being completely brain-dead. Zoey Deutch (soulful and spunky in Richard Linklater’s ‘Everybody Wants Some!!’) does what she can with the role of a vocally-fried, Ugg-booted blond who has somehow found a way to survive in a freezer. (The retrograde part says more about the mean-spiritedness of the writing team.) And when ‘Silicon Valley’s Thomas Middleditch shows up to kindle a bromance with Columbus, you wonder why the good idea ends up being curtailed. Expect to wait for your Bill Murray cameo until the very end. It plays like an afterthought, as does the movie itself.