Growing up in the 1980s, without internet, without Netflix, without independent access to a video store’s collection of movies, (until I was about 16), there were a number of movies that I saw in theaters (I went to the movies alone at least twice a week beginning at 14) that were sequels without having seen the originals; Poltergeist 2, The Karate Kid 2, Hardbodies 2, Lethal Weapon 2, Star Trek IV, Aliens and Beverly Hills Cop 2 comes to mind.
Zombieland 2 just may be the first sequel I have seen in a theater in over 30 years having not seen the original beforehand. Columbia Pictures didn’t screen the first Zombieland movie for me 10 years ago, and I never got around to watching it on my own.
I decided to go to a screening of Zombieland 2 to find out what all the fuss was about. The only thing I asked someone before going into the film was whether or not the four main stars of the film, Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, Jessie Eisenberg and Abigail Breslin, were zombies or human characters in the movie. They’re all uninfected humans. I didn’t Google a synopsis of the original or watch the trailer.
From what I gathered after seeing Zombieland 2, seeing the original first is not a necessity.
Zombieland 2 opens (and ends) with Eisenberg’s Columbus (all of the characters in the film are named for the cities they are from) narrating. Right before the opening credits roll, Columbus explains that the zombies have new names, there are different distinctions. While he is narrating, graphics appear on screen. First, there are the dumb Homers. They are named for the mentally deficient Homer Simpson. They are virtually harmless. Then there are the Hawkings. As you may expect, they are named after the famed late scientist Stephen Hawking. These zombies are ones with brains. There are also Ninjas. They are silent but deadly. Finally, there are the T-1000, named after the Terminator 2 character. They are mutated, stronger and deadlier.
After the definitions of all the types of zombies we watch the main characters walk up to The White House and lay claim to it. Some in the audience applauded. Thus, I take it that The White House factored into the original film. Harrelson’s Tallahassee claims the title of President as soon as they enter the building where they think they will be safe from zombies. There are jokes about former presidents. Wichita (Stone) and Columbus are a couple and while lying in, presumably Lincoln’s bed, ready to get it on, Wichita demands that Columbus cover the eyes of the Lincoln portrait that seems to be staring at them.
Not long after arriving, the two girls, Wichita and Breslin take off in a car. They are sick of the guys. Within a month they are back, but not before having picked up a human hippie hitchhiker, Berkeley (Avan Jogia).
The guys venture out to a desolate shopping mall, replete with a Walden Books. They zip around on Segways and stumble upon another human, Madison (Zoey Deutch, daughter of actress Lea Thompson and director Howard Deutch), who lives in the freezer at Pink Berry to stay safe from the zombies. Madison is the epitome of dumb as a bag of rocks. Toting around Louis Vuitton luggage and purse. Her biggest line in the film is when she says to Columbus, “we’re doing it now or I’m biting the bullet and doing it with the old guy,” referring to Tallahassee.
Jesse Eisenberg may be a good actor, but he has zero range. All of his lines in whatever movie he has ever been in have been delivered in a monotone fashion. That worked well for The Social Network, as he played Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who seems to have Asperger’s Syndrome, but it doesn’t work in every movie. Zombieland 2 is no exception. Columbus even has 73 Rules, the biggest and most important being cardio.
Abigail Breslin is a welcome sight. One of the youngest ever Oscar nominees (for Little Miss Sunshine when she was ten) Breslin exudes confidence as a loveable plus size girl. There is not enough of that in Hollywood today.
Emma Stone (Oscar winner for La La Land) is a good actor, but her range is limited. She is Emma Stone in every movie. She seems to have little to no ability at being able to play anything but a cheery, miss goody-two-shoes.
The film is mindless entertainment, the operative word being entertainment, if watching zombies getting beheaded and stomped on to the point that their heads explode is your idea of entertainment.
Luke Wilson makes a very brief appearance, as both a human and zombie. Rosario Dawson is featured in a couple of scenes, sort of as a throwaway character, until she has to save the day for the rest of the human tribe.
There are diversions such as a trip to Graceland. Tallahassee is an Elvis fan and tries on the King’s Blue Suede Shoes. It is Columbus, however, who fits into them. “I feel like Cinderella,” he exclaims, his feet slipping perfectly into the shoes.
The climax of the film takes the tribe to Babylon, a building resembling the Capitol Records building in Los Angeles. It is a fortress inhabited by gun hating and earth loving hippies. Little Rock and her hippie boy friend have found their way there and smoke pot all day and night.
Tallahassee has a plan to kill all of the zombies in the area. He claims to be part Blackfoot Indian, and recounts a tall tale from one of his alleged ancestors who kill a herd of buffalo by luring them to a cliff where they all jump off.
Suffice it to say, there is lots of action in the finale that won’t disappoint.
Make sure you stay until the last of the credits has rolled, as Bill Murray, who plays himself, granting interviews at the fictitious Garfield 3 press junket, including to Al Roker (who turns into a zombie), does a Spanish accent of something you could not have made up if you lived to be a million.