Spoilers for Zombieland: Double Tap!
The first Zombieland movie did a great job of being much more than “just another zombie movie.” For the most part, zombie movies use the zombies to say something specific about the human condition or to send a very specific message. The first time around in this series, “enjoy the little things” was my biggest takeaway. When you’re stuck in a seemingly impossible situation with no end in sight (i.e. the zombie apocalypse), you need to do something to make life still worth living.
For Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), the “little thing” was finding a Twinkie. For Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), it was just finding other people to accept him. And for Wichita and Little Rock (Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin), it was getting to an amusement park to make it seem like things were still normal.
Well now the sequel has come along and these characters are learning a new lesson about life. This film picks up 10 years after its predecessor, and the gang has settled into a life on the road. But when they finally come across the White House, they decide that is where they will settle down and call home.
But that is gone almost as soon as it comes. The two women take off, leaving the men to their own devices. Wichita cites not being sure about committing to a life with Columbus as her reason for leaving, while Little Rock feels like Tallahassee has become an overbearing father figure in her life.
As the four of them go off in two separate directions, they’re forced to think about the impact that the others have had on their lives. Most notably, a soft layer has apparently developed underneath Wichita’s hardened exterior. As she’s looking for a new place to call home, she can’t help but to think that she has just left it.
Little Rock, meanwhile, is off looking for a place where she can settle in with people her own age. She’s grown tired of being the youngest one in the group and feels like she’s missing out on life. Her pursuit of a home is defined by the mistaken idea that she will feel at home as soon as she is in a safe place surrounded by people her own age.
Tallahassee decides now that the group is split up, the best place to go is Graceland – the former mansion of Elvis Presley – and Columbus is lost, so he just tags along with Tallahassee.
Ultimately, all four of these people realize that the places they seek won’t actually bring them the joy and fulfilment that they’re searching for. Their “grass is always greener” mentalities are brought to the forefront when they each become disappointed with where they end up.
So the best thing that happened to them was their reuniting. After reconciling their differences and parting encounters, they realize that the best thing is probably to stay together. In fact, they’ve built a great rapport with each other over the course of 10 years. They’ve grown used to each other’s presence, and a real feeling of love is present in the group.
They realize, then, that the old adage is true – home is where the heart is. Their hearts are with each other. They don’t need to find one place to stay and settle down, because that isn’t the nature of the world. As long as they have each other’s company, and they will always be home.
In a way, this message is a bit cheesy, but so is, “Enjoy the little things.” But when it comes down to it, a story’s message can be cheesy and still be effective. Cheesy adages and always start from a place of simple truth, and sometimes old, simple truths are all we need to learn something new.