“You have a lot of choices when it comes to zombie entertainment,” the man who calls himself Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) intones in Zombieland: Double Tap’s opening voiceover. “So thank you for picking us.”
It’s true that since the original Zombieland’s release in 2009, the undead have spread to screens big and small like so much billy-clubbed brain matter smeared across a windshield. But aside from one (pretty decent) Walking Dead joke, the sequel is not particularly interested in delving too deep into all that.
Instead, it’s happy in its own supremely meta way to banter and slaughter and yes — entertain you. (If you don’t know going in that Double Tap is penned by the same guys who brought you Deadpool, you should pretty much be able to smell the fourth-wall screwball by minute two).
Nearly all the first movie’s central surviving cast returns, including Eisenberg’s neurotic, rule-bound Columbus, Emma Stone’s cool-eyed Wichita, her restless baby sister Little Rock (a now-grown Abigail Breslin), and Tallahassee, played with whooping redneck bliss by Woody Harrelson, perhaps the only man actually getting off on the apocalypse.
Together they now occupy an abandoned White House, crashing in the Lincoln Bedroom and casually trading priceless presidential artifacts for Christmas (you gift me the gun Elvis gave Nixon, I’ll take the Hope diamond). But when Columbus tries to make his relationship with Wichita ring-finger official, she balks and takes off with Little Rock.
The rest is essentially one droll, unhurried road-trip ramble, with pit stops at Graceland and a freewheeling post-zombie commune called Babylon (as in the ancient hanging gardens? “No, like the David Grey song”). It’s also an opportunity to make new friends, including Madison (a fantastically daffy Zoey Deutch), whose pretty blond head seems to be filled with the same stuff as her hot-pink Ugg boots, and Nevada (Rosario Dawson), maybe the only match for Tallahassee when it comes to loving Elvis, shotguns, and monster trucks. (There’s one very good cameo at the end too; one that isn’t much diminished by being pure shameless fan bait.)
Director Ruben Fleischer (Venom) is herding them all toward some kind of ultimate man-vs.-zombie showdown, but the action sequences often feel like the least necessary thing about the movie. For all the flying intestines and skulls that split open like past-due melons, Double Tap has another squishy organ at its center: a big, goofball heart. B