Synopsis: Derek and Hansel are modelling again when an opposing company attempts to take them out from the business.
Stars: Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Penelope Cruz, Will Ferrell, Kristen Wiig, Billy Zane, Fred Armisen, Christine Taylor, Cyrus Arnold, Justin Bieber, Kyle Mooney
Director: Ben Stiller
Running Length: 102 minutes
Trailer Review: Here
TMMM Score: (4.5/10)
Review: I guess I just need to start this review by owning up to the hard truth that before doing my homework for Zoolander 2 by re-watching the original, I’d only seen Zoolander once, back on the day it opened three weeks after September 11 in 2001. Arriving at time when audiences needed a brainless piece of fluff to distract them for a minor amount of time, the comedy was 89 minutes of funny, if perplexing, moments. For each solid laugh there were a dozen groans and while it did a fair job skewering the easy target of male models and fashionistas, it never left a lasting impression on me. In the years since it’s evolved into a bit of a cult hit (it did better business on video than it did in theaters), but I never felt the need to revisit it until the sequel came creaking along.
Now, no one is going to accuse director/writer/star Ben Stiller (The Secret Life of Walter Mitty) of missing the boat on cashing in on a sequel to a popular title from his canon. With Meet the Parents, Madagascar, and Night of the Museum now trilogies, Stiller likely was running through his IMDb page and landed on Zoolander as the target of his next trip to the Stiller well (we should be thankful he didn’t set his sights on Starsky & Hutch or Dodgeball…oh wait, a sequel to Dodgeball is already in development).
A whopping 15 years after the original was released, Zoolander 2 is ready to strut its stuff on a catwalk near you and while overall it’s better made than its predecessor, it suffers from the same chronic forgetability. Though Stiller and co-star Owen Wilson (Inherent Vice) look remarkably, um, “refreshed”, the jokes and comic foibles of the two dunderhead models start to feel musty halfway through the smorgasbord of cameo appearances and off-the-wall tangents.
A freak accident a decade ago sent former male model Derek Zoolander (Stiller) into exile in Northern New Jersey and split his family apart. When he’s called out of retirement by Billy Zane bearing an invitation to model in Italy, Derek agrees as a way to show he can be a fit parent and provide for his son. Meanwhile, Hansel (Wilson) has been hiding out in Malibu, ashamed of a disfigurement that ended his career. He’s also visited by Zane with the same offer of redemption and in an attempt to find out who he really is, agrees to put his shallow pride to the side and take to the runway. Soon after their arrival, Derek and Hansel are in the middle of a conspiracy within the fashion world involving a legend that’s part The Da Vinci Code and part acid trip which threatens to end their careers (and lives) for good.
Upping the ante from the original film, the cameos that Stiller has secured are plentiful. Running the gamut from Susan Boyle to Anna Wintour, Stiller isn’t messing around when it comes to stacking the deck with famous faces even though it’s clear many of them filmed in front of a blue screen and were digitally input into the scenes. Without question, the majority of the fun derived from revisiting Stiller’s brainless model is picking out the stars that pass through the frame. And the film earned a full two stars from me in its opening moments when it blessedly offs an annoying pop star that definitely had it coming.
That’s not to say the film doesn’t have its moments, because it does have some sequences that are so absurd you can’t help but laugh at the insanity of it all. To their credit, Stiller and fellow screenwriters Justin Theroux, Nicholas Stoller, and John Hamburg insert joke upon joke upon joke so if four are duds there’s sure to be one solid laugh coming right on their heels. The film gets its best results with Will Ferrell (Daddy’s Home) reprising his role as a megalomaniac designer and Kristen Wiig (The Martian) made up to the high heavens as a European fashion maven modeled after Donatella Verasce. When Ferrell and Wiig are involved, you just have to let the camera roll and they’ll do the work for you. The biggest surprise of the film is how high Penelope Cruz flies. The Oscar winner hasn’t been this free for years and she seems to relish the opportunity to play with broad strokes.
Yet overall the film feels as hollow as the fashion world itself. It’s all fun on the surface and in the moment but it leaves no lasting impression on the viewer. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have an overall positive reaction during the screening, I laughed at the most absurd passages (be prepared to let Fred Armisen haunt your dreams as a…well…I shan’t spoil the remarkable vision for you) and enjoyed myself sporadically, but upon reflection it’s simply a well packaged bag of potato chips…more stale air than actual food.