There is trouble in the adolescent, post-apocalyptic paradise of “Zombieland: Double Tap.” It’s been 10 years since we were introduced to the provisional family at the heart of Ruben Fleischer’s brain-spurting comedy: Jesse Eisenberg’s Columbus, Woody Harrelson’s Tallahassee, Emma Stone’s Wichita and Abigail Breslin’s Little Rock.
Not much has changed, as Columbus’ handy narration explains. Undead prowlers still vastly outnumber survivors, highways are dioramas of overgrown weeds and abandoned cars, and the White House—where our quartet has taken up residence—is a decaying museum piece that Columbus, et al., have transformed into a kind of makeshift theme park.
It’s an idyll that was bound to be disrupted, and it takes an ill-timed proposal from Columbus to cause the flighty, former con artist Wichita to flee Pennsylvania Avenue with her onetime partner-in-crime Little Rock, who has been yearning for male companionship her own age. So here we are, on the road again, with destinations including Graceland and Babylon, a pacifist utopian commune.
Talk of a sequel to “Zombieland” reportedly began even before the first installment released, but if this is the best the team could conjure in a decade’s time, they might want to put this franchise out to pasture, and let the dead stay dead. “Double Tap” is nothing more than a superfluous cash grab destined, at best, to inspire more “Zombieland” fan fiction.
The movie burnishes the series’ mythology, introducing more of Columbus’ rules for survival, and allowing for new survivors to join the collective. But only one—Rosario Dawson’s Nevada, who runs a Graceland-themed hotel near the ruins of the decimated Tennessee original—doesn’t fit into a stereotypical box. Otherwise, we meet’s Zoey Deutch’s Madison, a blonde bimbo, and Avan Jogia’s Berkeley, a patchouli-scented hippie, two of the easiest and hoariest targets in Hollywood’s yellowing playbook.
Road movies tend to be episodic by nature, but this script, from no less than three writers, feels penned on the fly—shapeless and sputtering, the narrative patched together with duct tape and ‘90s cultural references. There came a point where my only motivation to keep watching was for the Bill Murray cameo promised in the trailer, but even this turned out to be more of the same exhausted shtick.
In a year that has already welcomed a pretty great Bill Murray zombie flick—Jim Jarmusch’s witty and deadpan “The Dead Don’t Die”—the sensibilities of the “Zombieland” saga feel all the more juvenile. Ultimately, “Double Tap” has something unexpected in common with the more leaden “Joker”: They’re both not as clever as they think they are.