'Zombieland 2' somehow makes the best 'Shaun of the Dead' joke even better
After seeing the Zombieland: Double Tap trailer in July, we all knew the sequel would riff on a joke from Shaun of the Dead involving doppelgängers in the apocalypse. What you probably don’t know yet is that Double Tap somehow makes that iconic gag even funnier.
When you’re dealing in zombie comedy, it’s impossible to escape comparisons to Edgar Wright’s beloved Shaun of the Dead, a cheeky, subversive take on what had previously been a schlocky and gore-filled sub-genre of horror. Midway through the movie, Shaun (Simon Pegg) and his group of survivors shuffle along a dirt path between houses where they encounter Shaun’s ex-girlfriend, who’s traveling with a group of the same size … and shape.
She’s with a boyfriend, two friends who appear to be a couple, her mother, and a cousin that looks just like Shaun’s best friend Ed. The groups are mirror images of one another. It’s meant to feel surreal.
The dry humor and sheer awkwardness of it is fun enough, but this scene also highlights how they’re all just stock characters in a British horror movie. Except, whereas Shaun and company are going to a pub to wait out the apocalypse, his ex-girlfriend’s group are going to get help from the military. (A much smarter idea.)
Four years later, the original Zombieland dealt in bombastic action and bold attitudes rather than clever wit, but there was nary a Shaun of the Dead reference to be seen. A decade after that, Double Tap finally reckons with its place in the genre by executing a tighter, more thoughtful version of this same joke about stock character doppelgängers.
Minor spoilers for Zombieland: Double Tap follow.
As Columbus, Wichita, and Tallahassee wander Middle America looking for a runaway Little Rock in Zombieland: Double Tap, they happen upon an Elvis-themed motel where they encounter Albuquerque (Luke Wilson) and Flagstaff (Thomas Middleditch). Albuquerque drives an actual monster truck on top of Tallahassee’s beloved murder machine. Despite Tallahassee wearing an Elvis costume in the scene, it’s obvious that Albuquerque is the same brand of cowboy-hat-wearing, gun-toting, badass, zombie-killing maniac.
Rather than a fleeting hello, the two men spend at least a full minute arguing, barking the same insults at one another while trying to prove who’s the alpha. Maybe it’s my appreciation for crude American humor, but there’s something about it that’s fun to watch, like a mini Hobbes & Shaw of two outrageous men trying to prove who’s better.
Things get even more bizarre when Albuquerque’s partner, Flagstaff emerges and begins stammering apologies. Before you know it, he’s comparing his “Commandments” to Columbus’ beloved Rules.
Rather than merely present an amusing visual joke with the whole doppelgänger bit, Double Tap instead uses it as an opportunity to comment about masculinity, how even though Columbus is the beta male who we’re meant to see as the “Nice Guy” trope, he demonstrates a different kind of toxic masculinity under the right circumstances.
For a moment, it almost seems like Albuquerque and Flagstaff might become new members of this apocalyptic family, especially in how immediate the bromance sparks between Flagstaff and Columbus. But things quickly evolve from silly to ridiculous into full-on insanity when the new duo bite off more than they can chew taking on some hungry super-zombies by themselves. The craziness doesn’t even end there, but I’ll let you relish in the glorious chaos that follows when you see the movie.
Toxic masculinity strikes again. Their mistake? Forgetting Rule 52: Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Zombieland: Double Tap is now in theaters.