By John Mulderig
NEW YORK (CNS) — A full decade after the unusual combination of horror and comedy in “Zombieland” proved popular with both critics and audiences, the follow-up “Zombieland: Double Tap” (Columbia) arrives on screen.
While the original, though outrageously grisly, could be considered acceptable for the hardiest adult moviegoers, new elements in the sequel put it off-limits for all.
The setting remains a post-apocalyptic world overrun by flesh-craving zombies. And the focus is still on the first film’s central quartet, all of them named for their places of origin.
Amiable nebbish Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) continues his odd-couple partnership with macho gunman Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) while pursuing romance with his live-in girlfriend, Wichita (Emma Stone). Little Rock (Abigail Breslin), Wichita’s fancy-free but vulnerable younger sister, rounds out the ensemble.
Though they continue to struggle for survival, the group’s grim situation does have its advantages. Thus early scenes find them taking up residence in the abandoned White House and Columbus proposing to Wichita using the Hope Diamond.
The prospect of such a union, however, frightens commitment-averse loner Wichita. So, together with Little Rock, who has begun to chafe under Tallahassee’s paternal protection, she hits the road. Little Rock is also in the market for a boyfriend and finds a candidate in pacifist hippie Berkeley (Avan Jogia) whom the siblings encounter on their journey.
After a month’s absence, Wichita returns to Washington to report that Little Rock and Berkeley abruptly ditched her by departing on a road trip to Elvis Presley’s Graceland. Sharing her fears for Little Rock’s safety, Columbus and Tallahassee agree to join Wichita in trying to catch up with her.
Though Columbus would like to reconcile with Wichita, there’s a complicating factor in the person of ditzy blonde Madison (Zoey Deutch) with whom Columbus has struck up a casually physical relationship. Madison’s bubbly personality also grates on Tallahassee so her decision to join the trio on their quest makes for a comically uncomfortable expedition.
The moral trend in returning director Ruben Fleischer’s picture is toward marriage and loyalty among pals. Yet Columbus and Madison’s fling is winked at, as too are the similar antics Tallahassee engages in with Nevada (Rosario Dawson), a tough-as-nails hotel owner with whom the amigos briefly stay.
Though Nevada’s steamy personality may make her a perfect match for Tallahassee in the long run, the two test the waters within hours of meeting each other. The script, once again written by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, in collaboration with newcomer David Callaham, is equally lighthearted about Little Rock and Berkeley’s shared enthusiasm for smoking pot.
The crudity-littered screenplay also gets in a few disdainful digs at faith. Add these ingredients to the gleefully gruesome mowing down of the undead inherited from the kickoff and the whole proves beyond endorsement.
The film contains pervasive gory violence, an implicit anti-Christian theme, nonmarital sexual activity and cohabitation, drug use, several profanities and milder oaths, relentless rough and crude language and an obscene gesture. The Catholic News Service classification is O — morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.
Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.