It’s a shame that things have come to this. The first Zombieland seemed to ride a wave of spontaneous energy, blossoming from an indie hit to a bona fide smash. It felt fresh and dynamic; a properly crafted, lovingly-told told story with genuine heart and a head for laughs. This sequel feels like the ultimate committee-driven follow-up, existing for no other reasons than commercial ones.
It comes, arguably, after the bulk of the zombie wave has already rolled over and crashed upon the shores of exploited cult culture. An opening monologue from Jesse Eisenberg’s Columbus acknowledges the saturated state of the current zombie scene and thanks you for your repeat business in an overloaded genre.
Our heroes from round one have holed-up in the White House, making something of a normal life for themselves among the carnage. Grasping at a regular life of undead bourgeoise domesticity, Columbus proposes to Wichita (Emma Stone) because that’s what young couples do. Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), apparently acting in some grossly overbearing parental way, gives Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) Elvis Presley’s handgun as an early Christmas gift and the two ladies proceed to become massively freaked out by the drudgery of their lives. So, they jump ship and pick up their previous lives on the road in Zombieland with a crestfallen Columbus and Tallahassee left behind pining for the ladies who have left them.
This feels like a solution to a problem that never existed in the first place. How to get these characters back out of their safe space and into the mayhem of an apocalyptic USA? Throw in a domestic argument or two and set off on another road trip, this time starting from Washington DC and heading westwards towards Graceland (disappointingly the Paul Simon banger does not feature).
It’s an excuse to roll back the admittedly-not-many years and enjoy everything from part one over again. Except this time, it all feels a bit cliched; a bit tried-and-tested and desperate to recreate the spontaneous magic of the first. Everything second time around feels lazy and forced; the non-ironic version of Monty Python’s Contractual Obligation Album.
Performances, with perhaps the exception of Harrelson) look and sound phoned-in with the distracted, irritable air of a man sitting in a garage waiting room for an MOT. It ticks the requisite splattery boxes, but never feels like as joyous or fresh as it did ten years ago.
This is a movie which opens by thanking you for coming back for a second helping and leaves you wondering if your eyes were bigger than your belly.
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Horror, Comedy | USA, 2019 | 15 | 18th October 2019 (UK) | Sony Pictures Releasing | Dir.Ruben Fleischer | Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Zoey Deutch, Abigail Breslin, Emma Stone,