Director: Ben Stiller
Starring: Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Penélope Cruz, Kristen Wiig, Will Ferrell, Benedict Cumberbatch,Justin Theroux, Christine Taylor, Billy Zane
It’s tough being a male model, just ask Derek Zoolander (Stiller). He decides to retire from the industry and become a “hermit crab” after facing tragedy after tragedy. His wife (Taylor) is killed in a freak accident and his son is taken away from him. On a snowy night, Billy Zane shows up at his doorstep and convinces him to come out of hiding in order to go to Rome and get his son back and also appear in a fashion show by acclaimed designer Alexanya Atoz (Wiig). What Derek doesn’t know is that Billy has approached his frenemy Hansel (Wilson) for the same reason. While in Rome, Derek is cornered by Melanie Valentina (Cruz), a member of the fashion division of Interpol. She would like his help tracking down a known assassin responsible for killing the world’s greatest pop stars. She believes Derek may have some insight, as right before they all died, they posted selfies giving the infamous “Blue Steel” look. In exchange for his help, she will help him track down his son’s whereabouts.
It’s been fifteen years since the first Zoolander hit theaters in 2001 to poor reviews. It steadily gained a cult following once it hit DVD. I’m pretty sure it was played at many college parties I attended back in the day. In this day and age where cherished series, movies, or characters are coming back with reboots and reunions, it seemed like only a matter of time before this team would grace the runway again. It never seemed like Ben Stiller was ever in a rush to write the film, but the day has finally come. He co-wrote the film with Justin Theroux (Tropical Thunder), Nicholas Stoller (Sex Tape), and John Hamburg (I Love You, Man), and we’re left with a sequel that is an all-out spoof on fashion with a bit of an international action/spy storyline thrown in there. With four screenwriters, I would have expected it to be a bit tighter. They attempt to have a couple of different plotlines going, but they aren’t fully realized and pieced together. The movie is sort of about his son, it’s sort of about the return of Zoolander to fashion, and sort of about the death of these pop stars. Comedy is at its best and funniest when the writing is precise and not so haphazardly put together.
That being said, most people going to this movie aren’t looking for a deep plot. Once I let myself get back into this world, I loosened up a bit and just went with it. The cast from the first film is back including Owen Wilson as Hansel, and Will Ferrell’s villain, Mugatu, who finally shows up an hour into the film after escaping from prison. Gee, I wonder who accidentally set him free. The characters are so completely ridiculous and over the top that it works because the cast is all in on the joke and ready and willing to be silly. Kristen Wiig is buried under a heavy make-up job and lavishly cuckoo costumes making her almost unrecognizable. I can only assume that Donatella Versace was the inspiration for her character. In true Wiig fashion, she’s hysterical even though you can barely make out what she’s actually saying. Benedict Cumberbatch pops up as a gender-neutral and eyebrow free model going by the name of All. Even Oscar winner Penelope Cruz lets her hair down to play a retired swimsuit model turned Interpol agent.
Not every joke lands and not every bit works. Maybe I would have laughed harder and more consistently if I knew the first one really well. I’ve seen it a couple of times but it’s been many years since my last viewing. I purposely didn’t do a recent re-watch in order to take this one on its own merit. Maybe I would have been disappointed if this didn’t live up to the first. I couldn’t even tell you which jokes are recycled from before. I felt burned by other recent comedy sequels like Anchorman 2 and Dumb and Dumber To as I watched their originals shortly before I watched the sequel. Zoolander 2 is the best of these three “reunion sequels”. In all honesty, I don’t find the character of Derek Zoolander all that funny with his “Blue Steel” and “Magnum” looks. What I do find funny is how over the top they take everything with its clear satire on the fashion industry and everyone involved with that.
With films like these, you can always bank on a few big name cameos along the way. You lose track after while in Zoolander 2 as there are so many cameos, from respected journalists like Christiane Amonpour to fashion designers like Marc Jacobs. Anyone felt fair game to pop up. From the trailer alone, you see that Justin Bieber is a willing participant and allows himself to be shot at after a high speed Mission-Impossible style chase. These can be tricky when they feel like a cheap ploy for laughs. Given the number and sheer randomness of them, the cameos never feel forced and in the way of the actual movie. Everything else in the movie is given that stupid funny approach, so why not throw in Willie Nelson or Kiefer Sutherland.
Ben Stiller also serves as the film’s director and keeps the film fairly short in length, unlike many comedies these days. Some just don’t know when to stop with a joke. Zoolander 2 doesn’t set out to be a highbrow comedy. Stiller brought the character back at the request of the fans who continue to get a kick out of his doltish character. If you’re looking for plot, you’ve come to the wrong movie. If you’re looking to have a dumb laugh, practice that Blue Steel look and enjoy the movie.
Is It Worth Your Trip to the Movies? You’ll laugh throughout, but will probably forget all about it a few days later.
RATING: 3 out of 5 TICKET STUBS