PLOT During the zombie apocalypse, a communal society comes under threat.
CAST Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, Jesse Eisenberg
RATED R (comedic but copious gore)
BOTTOM LINE The makers of the hit comedy “Zombieland” throw a bloody bone to fans.
In “Zombieland: Double Tap,” four survivors of the zombie apocalypse stumble upon the ultimate crash pad: The White House. Woody Harrelson, as the self-confident cowboy Tallahassee, immediately props his boots upon the president's desk, drawing a sneer from Emma Stone's cynical Wichita. "You really bring a lot of dignity to the office," she says.
Is that a zinger at Donald Trump? If so, Elizabeth Warren gets hers when Tallahassee later claims — unconvincingly — that he has Native American blood.
So much has happened since Ruben Fleischer's splatter-comedy "Zombieland" hit screens in 2009. Back then, politics was still a snooze; the closest the movie came to topical humor was blaming the zombie pandemic on mad cow disease. In this sequel, returning director Ruben Fleischer and his screenwriters, Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese (with Dave Callaham), face a challenge: How to make a comedy about an essentially unchanging world seem relevant in a new era of political division, social media saturation and economic disruption. They succeed, if only by the skin of their teeth.
Thanks to its reunited cast, all happily playing to type, there's only so wrong "Zombieland: Double Tap" can go. Harrelson steals every scene, Stone is effortlessly magnetic (if slightly underused) and Jesse Eisenberg works his fidgety charm as the socially maladroit Columbus. If Abigail Breslin's Little Rock feels sidelined, it's because the movie uses her as a MacGuffin: Now a rebellious teenager, she runs off with a guitar-strumming hippie named Berkeley (Avan Jogia), prompting the others to chase her down.
"Zombieland: Double Tap" makes several nods to our modern world. A new character, Madison, a chirpy suburbanite played by a winning Zoey Deutch, is found living in a mall near a Forever 21 store (a prescient reference, given the chain's recent bankruptcy filing). There's also a wry joke about a certain ride-for-hire app that, in the movie's world, hasn't been invented. A visit to an Elvis-themed hotel strikes a tired note of kitsch, though it gives Harrelson's Tallahassee a chance to dally with Rosario Dawson's sultry Nevada; it's also the setting for an amusing if extraneous episode in which Luke Wilson and Thomas Middleditch play mirror-images of Harrelson and Eisenberg, respectively.
"Zombieland: Double Tap" borders on bona fide satire when our heroes discover Babylon, a pacifist commune where guns are forbidden and the only enemies are "poverty, sexism and social injustice," in the words of one bearded doofus. You can guess what happens to them. Still, the movie's humor is never mean-spirited or partisan, and most people will leave the theater reasonably entertained and unoffended. Unless they're zombies.