In the post-apocalypse, you will … walk in Elvis’ blue suede shoes … ride in The King’s pink ’55 Cadillac … fend off swarms of the ravening undead.
Fun times in the zombie-infested future.
Fun times for sure in “Zombieland: Double Tap.” It’s a sequel without equal in the annals of zom-com cinema.
Ten years after the release of “Zombieland,” the surprise breakout blockbuster that gobbled down more than $100 million at the worldwide box office, the original suspects are back for a second bite at the gore-drenched apple. Those would be Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Abigail Breslin and Emma Stone, playing seasoned zombie fighters, director Ruben Fleischer and writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (newcomer Dave Callaham also contributed to the script).
They’ve combined talents to keep the franchise fresh with appealing performances, plenty of snark and vast quantities of pop-culture references to everything from “Dawn of the Dead” to “The Walking Dead” to “The Terminator” to, of course, Elvis. The picture expends so much effort winking at the audience with those in-jokey references that you fear it might dislocate an eyelid.
It’s a meandering road-trip movie that takes the characters from the decayed White House, where they’ve taken up residence, to Graceland, which, alas, is now an overgrown ruin. No worries, though. Just down the road is the Hound Dog Hotel, a neon-saturated, memorabilia-packed shrine operated by a sexy super fan named Nevada (Rosario Dawson). (Everyone here has taken the name of their city of origin.) Elvis’ blue suede footwear is found by Columbus (Eisenberg) to be a perfect fit. That’s much to the chagrin of the ever-grouchy, Elvis-worshipping Tallahassee (Harrelson), who considers it sacrilege for his pal to wear the sacred shoes. To which Columbus responds, what’s the harm? “He’s dead, probably.” Much later, they’ll all hit the road in the marvelously preserved iconic pink Caddy.
Before they get to that point, though, they have to work through a whole host of personal issues: Columbus’ wish to wed the commitment-skittish Wichita (Stone); Wichita’s younger sister Little Rock’s (Breslin) desire to find a boyfriend among the diminished ranks of the living; and Tallahassee’s budding desire for Nevada, who he immediately perceives to be a soul mate for sure.
Dawson’s Nevada is a welcome addition to the cast, but the real standout newcomer is Madison, the character played by Zoey Deutch. She’s an effervescent, pink-clad blond ditz — bubbling and smiling and dithering in a manner that appeals to sweet-natured Columbus but causes worldly Wichita and Tallahassee to grit their teeth and roll their eyes. How has she survived all these years, sheltered in a freezer in a shopping mall? Tallahassee has a theory: “Zombies eat brains. She ain’t got any.”
The gore quotient is high in this one (lots and lots of exploding heads) and the one-liners flow freely. Bloody good fun, but not for the whole family. That R rating is well-earned.
★★★ “Zombieland: Double Tap,” with Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Abigail Breslin, Emma Stone, Zoey Deutch, Rosario Dawson. Directed by Ruben Fleischer, from a screenplay by Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick and Dave Callaham. 93 minutes. Rated R for bloody violence, language throughout, some drug and sexual content. Opens Oct. 18 at multiple theaters.