Zoey Deutch

Zombieland: Double Tap

27/10/19

It’s hard to believe that ten years have passed since the first Zombieland film – and, while the original came as a breath of fresh air amidst the unseemly scramble of leaden undead movies that hit the screens around that time, it’s probably fair to say that there weren’t too many punters desperate to see a sequel. But you have to take your hat off to director Ruben Fleischer, who not only persuaded somebody to finance this, but also got the four lead players to reprise their roles.

A decade has passed for the quartet of survivors too, who – when we first encounter them – are moving into their new headquarters: the White House. Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) and Witchita (Emma Stone) are now a couple, while Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) has taken on a fatherly role towards Little Rock (Abgail Breslin). But LR’s at a difficult age, starting to long for a little ‘me time’ and, when Columbus rashly proposes marriage to Wichita, she too feels a little hemmed in. So the two women hit the road, looking for new horizons.

Complications occur when LR encounters a wandering hippie (Avan Joggia) with a guitar and a repetoire of popular rock songs, which he claims to have written. She falls promptly under his spell and runs off with him to a hippie community where weapons are banned, dumping Wichita in the process. Wichita returns to the two men but, in her absence, Columbus has hooked up with Madison (Zoey Deutch), an airheaded valley girl, who has improbably managed to stay alive (and meticulously clean) in the midst of all the carnage. Despite the awkward situation, the four of them head out on LR’s trail.

Double Tap is undoubtedly fun – a silly, good-natured addition to what went before – but, like so many sequels, it struggles to add anything new to the mix. Here, there’s an attempt to suggest that the zombies are evolving from the simple shuffling ‘Homers’ of the original story to ‘T-800s,’ leaner, meaner and harder to kill – and there’s a loosely knit story arc about the importance of family – but, ultimately, that’s not really enough to justify this as a film in its own right. And some of the internal logic of the tale really doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

The laughs come easily enough and there are sly references to things that occurred in episode one. The cartoon violence is unashamedly visceral (unleash these levels of slaughter at human victims and that 15 rating might need to be raised a notch) and there’s an interesting new character in the shape of Rosario Dawson, as a woman with a major Elvis Presley fixation.

So yes, it’s no hardship to watch – but it isn’t destined to linger very long in the memory.

3.6 stars

Philip Caveney

Why Him?

09/01/17

Given that this film is a sort of Christmas movie, we came to it late. In fact we only went to see it because A: It was one of the only three films in the cinema we hadn’t yet seen, and B: It wasn’t Ballerina or Assassin’s Creed. We had fairly low expectations for it and were pleasantly surprised to find that we actually rather enjoyed it.

The ‘him’ in question is Laird Mayhew (James Franco), a potty-mouthed but fabulously rich man-child, the impresario behind a line of incredibly successful computer games featuring apes with bazookas. The person asking the titular question is Ned Fleming (Bryan Cranston), who along with his wife, Barb (Megan Mulally) runs a struggling print-on-paper publishing company, the kind of set up that people like Laird are putting out of business on a daily basis. The reason the question is being asked is that Ned’s beloved daughter, Stephanie (Zoey Deutch) is now going out with Laird, and Ned’s parents have just been introduced to him in the worst way possible – midway through a Skype call during Ned’s fifty-fifth birthday party, they are forced to watch online as he prepares to get down and dirty with their daughter. Awkward!

When the Fleming family is invited out to sunny California to spend the Christmas holidays with the young couple, Ned is far from enthusiastic; and when he sees the palatial designer house in which Laird (and his sizeable entourage) dwell, his hackles rise and it’s clear that this is going to be a bumpy ride.

Now, I’ve never subscribed to the theory that the fathers of daughters have to automatically hate their choice of partner, though this inappropriate jealousy is a familiar if overused trope. But it has to be said that Cranston and Franco certainly milk the idea for some big laughs here – and Stephanie makes clear that she wants no part in their macho posturing. Most of the hilarity comes from Ned’s long-suffering expressions as he is subjected to one indignity after another. His humiliating tussle with a ‘paperless toilet’ is particularly funny and there’s a nicely set up gag about the rock band, Kiss that also pays dividends. I also enjoyed Keegan Michael-Key’s turn as Laird’s ‘mentor’ Gustav and the running joke where he and Laird attack each other on a daily basis, an evident tribute to Clouseau and Cato from the Pink Panther films.

Okay, so this isn’t going to challenge It’s A Beautiful Life as everybody’s favourite Christmas flick, but it’s a decently made bit of fluff that (unless you’re very hard to please) will  make you laugh out loud at regular intervals. And maybe, in these troubled times, that’s as much as you can reasonably ask.

3.8 stars

Philip Caveney