When Zoolander opened in cinemas in 2001, like most cult films, it premiered to poor reviews and little audience love. It seemed as if Ben Stiller’s comedy were to fail and be forgotten in the same way Adam Sandler’s Don’t Mess With The Zohan and Rob Schneider’s The Hot Chick have since disappeared into the abyss of bad films never to be seen again. But alas, as the film gained traction, it became noticeable that in the years following high fashion and the model celebrity’s permeation into pop culture, Zoolander was more relevant than ever before and a better parody of the industry that we had seen.
But that doesn’t mean that now, fifteen years later, that Zoolander returning to the big screen is a good idea. In fact, the unique and on point original is slandered here in this sequel by this muddled script, boring concept and overwrought jokes, proving that Zoolander 2 isn’t concerned with its legacy but rather continuing an overlong punchline in order to get more money.
Centering once again on model slash fashion superstar Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller), who lost his career, his son, his wife and his style a mere few years after the end of the previous film, as he is dragged from his hermitage to return to the fashion stage for new acclaimed designer Alexanya Atoz (Kristen Wiig) in Rome. But naturally there are other forces at play, as his former friend also slash model Hansel (Owen Wilson) is asked to feature in the same show, and Interpol agent Valentina Valencia (Penelope Cruz) urges the two to help her in uncovering the senseless murders of the world’s celebrities.
Stiller’s return as Zoolander is a happy reunion for old fans and he plays it up as much as he can, as the character should be played, without taking the important risks the first one took that allowed it to succeed. Wilson, on the other hand, is certainly more likeable here and outshines Stiller at almost every turn – whether its Wilson’s perfect grasp on comedy or his ability to conjure sentimentality, he is a nice presence to have on screen all the way through.
The biggest problem with the film is that it so stringently adheres to the jokes and rules of the original, that the character of Zoolander does not develop nor is offered any new gags, instead ending up like a sour yarn. Stiller who directed and co-wrote the script shows here that he has little ability to capture Zoolander as anything other than a bored parody. Similarly the story is long winded and takes a long time to get the real story going, instead placing celebrity cameos here and there to keep us interested and awake. Not to say that crazy story lines cannot be entertaining, but alas there is no fun in the events happening on screen, leaving the audience waiting for the next gag in between the obscenely chaotic plot.
Indeed, as noted, Zoolander 2 is dependent on the surplus of celebrity cameo appearances throughout, from Marc Jacobs to Katy Perry, Justin Bieber to John Malkovich, Kiefer Sutherland to Ariana Grande, Anna Wintour to Benedict Cumberbatch, and the list goes on. And whilst their inclusion in the story is aimed to make viewers laugh at what these stars are doing, it replaces any actual notion of comedy. For example, in a short quip, Susan Boyle gives the finger to stalking paparazzi at an airport. And that’s the joke. And while the film plays with expectations of industries and celebrities themselves, its cheap gags and random appearances don’t further the narrative nor give us something to truly appreciate.
Sadly the worst thing about the film is how hard it tries to make the audience laugh. In watching the flick, you can absolutely tell that extreme editing and script re-writing has attempted to extract every laugh from the audience humanly possible. This, added with extreme lunacy and utterly stupidity make for a thoughtless and enjoyable film, if you want nothing more than orgy jokes and slapstick.