Zombieland: Double Tap's so-so horror comedy sequel 'produces a steady trickle of giggles'
Damon Smith watches as the undead come out to play with Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg and Emma Stone in the comedy sequel Zombieland: Double Tap
I DON'T like to speak ill of the undead but the proliferation of flesh-eaters in popular culture has left me with zombie fatigue. In 2009, when Ruben Fleischer made his eye-catching directorial debut with hilarious comedy-horror Zombieland, there was a tolerable and steady shuffle of the slavering predators thanks to George A Romero and the Resident Evil videogames and films.
In the subsequent decade, long-running TV series The Walking Dead has infected the mainstream, Brad Pitt's family holiday has been interrupted by World War Z and pesky zombies have infiltrated Pride And Prejudice, faced off against gun-toting Cockneys, dressed as Nazis in Dead Snow, boarded a Train To Busan and fallen in love with Warm Bodies.
The brain-munching blighters are everywhere and they almost overrun Fleischer's belated sequel, Zombieland: Double Tap.
This ramshackle road-trip strikes the same irreverent tone as its gore-laden predecessor, including a delirious flashback during the end credits of a viral outbreak rudely interrupting Bill Murray (playing himself) as he promotes Garfield 3: Flabby Tabby.
New additions to the cast are largely forgettable except for Zoey Deutch as a ditzy, hair-twiddling blonde, who has been hiding in a giant ice cream freezer for the past decade.
"You know why she survived?" explains Woody Harrelson's father figure. "Because zombies eat brains and she's got none."
The film opens with Tallahassee (Harrelson), Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), Wichita (Emma Stone) and spunky younger sister Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) living as a dysfunctional family in the White House.
Columbus proposes to Wichita but she is reluctant to accept in case they become another divorce statistic.
"I don't see us going that route," he quips. "Where would we find the lawyers?"
The following day, Wichita and Little Rock leave the safety of the group to become mistresses of their destinies.
On the road, they pick up a guitar-strumming pacifist called Berkeley (Avan Jogia), who is searching for the fabled sanctuary of Babylon.
"It's named for that David Gray song," he coos.
Meanwhile, Columbus soothes his heartbreak in the company of survivor Madison (Deutch).
Zombieland: Double Tap produces a steady trickle of giggles and the film's centrepiece action sequence, seemingly shot in a single take on a handheld camera, momentarily quickens the pulse.
However, it's hard to creatively justify the sequel when character development is minimal, plotting is flimsy and some of the biggest laughs are mined by scriptwriters Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick and Dave Callaham from set-ups in the first film, including the list of rules that Eisenberg's nerd follows to avoid a bite from the infected.
"This is terrifying but totally unrealistic," sighs Columbus as he reads a Walking Dead comic book in bed.
He might as well be reviewing Fleischer's picture.
ZOMBIELAND: DOUBLE TAP (15, 99 mins) Comedy/Horror/Action/Romance. Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin, Zoey Deutch, Rosario Dawson, Avan Jogia. Director: Ruben Fleischer.
Released: October 18