By Kyle G. King. America wasn’t quite ready for the original Zoolander back in 2001 — premiering too shortly after the September 11th attacks, when the country wasn’t even thinking about laughing, the timing of the film’s theatrical release was its unforeseeable and unfortunate financial demise. But luckily Ben Stiller’s writing-directing-leading man debut found new life with younger audiences upon its release on DVD as a cult comedy of early 2000’s canocity. And though the premise of “men who care too much about their looks” might have been a fresh gag we could choke a comedic feature from fifteen long years ago, the more gender-flexible climate of 2016 demands much more from its Hollywood comedies. With the prolonged arrival of its sequel Zoolander 2, the “franchise” once again risks finding itself strangled by a poorly timed release date.
Legendary male supermodels Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller) and Hansel (Owen Wilson) are both “out of fashion” in separate self-imposed exiles following a tragic building collapse at the Derek Zoolander’s Center For Kids Who Can’t Read Good, leaving Hansel “horribly” disfigured and Derek lost without his wife and son. When old friend Billy Zane (spoofing himself yet again) recruits them for the fashion industry’s biggest, most talked-about runway show, the pair of ridiculously good looking men work frantically to find their “big issue right now” (whatever that’s supposed to mean), compelling them to walk the runway once more. But that runway is a long and winding road leading to deceit and villainous masterminds, so Derek and Hansel find themselves once more morphing into action-packed super-spies out to expose the dark underworld of the corrupt fashion industry.
Just as the two old-timers find themselves out of touch with the industry they once ruled with a velvet glove, Zoolander 2 also fails to age its comedy with any semblance of grace or intelligence. Far too reliant on jokes echoed from its 2001 original, Z2 dresses itself in highly unstylish rags without any semblance that a makeover ever took place. In a just world, the idiotic byproduct of Derek and Hansel’s endless cool would have warranted but a single movie, so naturally the most uncomfortable part of its sequel is its endless desperation. Even as the film attempts to build on its rebranded premise, it finds itself infused with an ugly crudeness thinly disguised as stupidity — mostly concentrated on celebrity cameos and ungainly jabs at overweight and transgendered characters. Never once does its malice count for anything beyond wickedly boring comedy.
The comedy is stupid, we know, but Derek Zoolander shouldn’t be the sole person to receive credit here: contributions from otherwise clever screenwriters like Ben Stiller, Justin Theroux, Nicholas Stoller, and John Hamburg all waltz through this mess without ever properly giving the viewer a reason to give a damn about the material. The script is too distracted with cameos to care or realize that it’s simply not as much fun to laugh at the world of self-centered celebrities and uptight fashionistas if there are so many of them in on the damn jokes . The film isn’t fun, it’s certainly not smart, and it definitely isn’t cool. It’s just a sad plea for more money fifteen years past its sell-by date.
Though Penelope Cruz sure is beautiful and fierce as the Interpol agent who failed to platform from a swimsuit model career, and Kristen Wiig is weirdly haunting as barely decipherable fashion mogul Alexanya Atoz, Zoolander 2 is too focused on being Zoolander 1 to afford any new characters proper screen time. Even Will Ferrell’s Mugatu arrives too little too late in overwrought sequences of tacked-on yesteryear comedy to add anything substantial to the film.
Ben Stiller’s duckface got him millions of dollars to make the movies he wanted, but just as Blue Steel, Ferrari, Le Tigre, and Magnum all provide the same look (only better), the garish Zoolander 2 finds itself rightfully cast out of the cool kids party. Prepare your eugoogoolies for this franchise death.
Directed by Ben Stiller.
Produced by Stuart Cornfeld, Scott Rudin, Ben Stiller, and Clayton Townsend.
Written by John Hamburg, Ben Stiller, Nick Stoller, and Justin Theroux.
Starring Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Will Ferrell, Penélope Cruz, and Kristen Wiig.
1.5 out of 10