It’s been ten years since Zombieland, so a sequel arriving now is pretty weird and long delayed. Having loved the first’s zombie comedy I was excited to check back in the characters but would it work?
It’s a few years down the road and our heroes have arrived in Washington DC and take up residence at the White House, living like a dysfunctional family. Nerdy and nervous Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) is in a relationship with Wichita (Emma Stone) and happy to have found a home. Wichita’s little sister Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) is starting to get itchy feet and growing frustrated, having grown up following the zombie apocalypse she feels isolated and craves company around her own age, also feeling tired of being treated like a little kid, especially by Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), the oldest and loudest member of the quartet.
When Columbus proposes to Wichita she reacts badly, and the sisters leave in the middle of the night, leaving a note and taking The Beast, the President’s armoured vehicle. A month passes and Columbus is still bereft, while Tallahassee grows frustrated and talks of hitting the road again himself.
They then encounter Madison (Zoey Deutch), a ditzy young woman who has survived by hiding in the freezer of a restaurant at the mall. She and Columbus hook up but Wichita returns the same night, trying to sneak in for weapons and a vehicle after Little Rock abandoned her, running off with Berkeley (Avan Jogia), a hippie who believes in a pacifist approach to zombies and who Little Rock has fallen for.
Columbus and Tallahassee volunteer to help Wichita find her little sister, and along with Madison they hit the road again, knowing that runaway pair are heading for Elvis’ home at Graceland.
On the road they discover that there is a new type of zombies, nicknamed the T-800s by Columbus because like the Terminator they are mindlessly driven towards their goal and much tougher to kill, even surviving gunshots to the head. Can they fight off these evolved undead and rescue their friend? Will the group then drift apart or can their family be reunited?
I really dug this movie, like the original it has a kind of anarchic sense of fun in the man vs zombie battles, with enough gore for undead fans but the whole thing handled with a combination of slapstick and black humour. The T-800s are a new and intimidating new addition, but there’s also humour from the other groups of zombies that Columbus has nicknamed and gives background on.
Columbus’ narration and the return of his survival routes and “Zombie Killer of the Week/Year” awards break the fourth wall in an entertaining manner, and the dialogue is filled with postmodern nods, in jokes and some great interaction between the characters.
It’s the characters which are one of the major strengths of the film, with each member of the central group being likeable and understandable. Eisenberg’s Columbus remains a bit of a neurotic geek type but his survival is believable due to his rules and the fact that he handles himself fairly well when the chips are down. This is a slight problem with the newer characters as it’s hard to buy that even hiding in a freezer that Madison has made it this far into Zombieland. She shows no survival skills or fighting prowess, and seems like she’d be easy pickings for the undead.
Little Rock and Wichita are realised well, two tough survivors who have got by for a while on their own and without forming attachments, both now chafing against their makeshift family unit despite the benefits. Both pull away, having been hurt and abandoned in the past.
Woody Harrelson steals the movie again as the loudmouthed, boorish Tallahassee who’s macho posturing and “lone wolf” proclamations mask a far more sensitive sole than he wishes to portray. He gets some of the best lines and Harrelson’s easy charm makes him an entertaining and likeable character.
The movie worked for me, even if a few plot points are easy to see coming. Being a sequel it doesn’t feel as fresh or different as the first movie did, but it works as a continuation of the story and the characters got me right back into the movie.
As a zombie movie it doesn’t quite work, the world they live in doesn’t feel like it’s fallen apart enough in the intervening years and there are no problems when it comes to finding weapons and ammo. There’s a point where Columbus reads a copy of The Walking Dead, which he describes as “Terrifying…but totally unrealistic”, it’s a nice throwaway gag, but the Zombieland they show doesn’t feel like it’s been in effect for as long as it has. Of course, it’s a comedy and not an examination of how civilisation works in after the dead rise, and it’s only going to bother zombie obsessives like me.
But on the whole it works and I especially liked two nods towards a character from the previous movie, including a wonderful end credits sequence.
It’s bloody good fun.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.