The sequel to the fun 2009 original is a reunion for reunion's sake

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Like a zombie back from the dead, "Zombieland: Double Tap" stumbles around, dragging its foot, looking for a brain to sink its teeth into. 

It comes up short. The sequel to 2009's zombie comedy about a group of survivors in the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse retains the pop culture-savvy, tossed-off comic spirit of the original, but has none of its emotional investment. It's hard to care about the characters when the whole thing is treated like an in-joke.   

Case in point: There's a scene where cowboy-type Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) and bookish Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) meet up with bizarro world mirror images of themselves, played by Luke Wilson and Thomas Middleditch. A game of one-upmanship ensues, and Tallahassee proudly utters his "Zombieland" catcphrase: "nut up or shut up."

Wilson's character rolls his eyes. "That's so 2009," he replies. And so is "Double Tap"; acknowledging it doesn't make it go away. 

As "Double Tap" opens, Tallahassee, Columbus and sister duo Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) are taking up residence in the White House because, well, why not. 

Columbus is looking to take things to the next level with Wichita, but she has commitment issues. (Dude, if you're one of a small handful of warm bodies left on the planet and she's not ready to settle down, it might be you.) 

Meanwhile, Little Rock is feeling cooped up and wants to see more of what the world has to offer, which sends father figure Tallahassee into a tizzy. The sisters head off on their own, giving "Double Tap" a loose structure and a reason to hit the road. 

Zoey Deutch is a bright spot as Madison, a next-level airhead whom Columbus meets in an abandoned shopping mall; Deutch plays her like a Plastic from "Mean Girls" crossed with Anna Faris' "House Bunny" character, and she steals her scenes. 

Returning director Ruben Fleischer fills the film with decapitated heads and loud on-screen graphics, but can't give "Double Tap" a sense of purpose outside of its own self-satisfaction.

Columbus is constantly rattling off his road-tested rules of survival, but here's one he forgot: sequels rarely live up to the originals. This one is forgotten before it's over. 

'Zombieland: Double Tap'

GRADE: C+

Rated R: bloody violence, language throughout, some drug and sexual content

Running time: 99 minutes

Zombieland: Double Tap (R) 

agraham@detroitnews.com

@grahamorama

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