UK Release Date: 12th February 2016
Runtime: 102 minutes
Director: Ben Stiller
Writer: Ben Stiller, Justin Theroux, Nicholas Stoller, John Hamburg
Starring: Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Penelope Cruz, Will Ferrell, Kristen Wiig, Benedict Cumberbatch, Cyrus Arnold
Synopsis: Derek and Hansel are out of fashion and in hiding, but they are drawn out of retirement by a shady invite to a new fashion show which drags them into an oddball conspiracy.
Late sequels are in vogue at the moment. It took nine years for Anchorman 2 to make its way to the big screen and, now, 15 years after the original film’s release, Zoolander 2 has allowed Ben Stiller to reprise what is perhaps his most memorable role as the witless, but “really really ridiculously good looking”, runway model, Derek Zoolander.
Derek (Stiller) has been in hiding ever since his wife died in the collapse of his poorly built education centre. He and Hansel (Owen Wilson) are invited to a fashion show by Alexanya Atoz (Kristen Wiig), which proves to be a setup for ridicule by a new generation of models. The duo are approached by Interpol agent Valentina (Penelope Cruz), who wants their help investigating celebrities whose dying act was to flash Derek’s signature “Blue Steel” face. In return, she promises to track down Derek’s son (Cyrus Arnold).
Zoolander 2 is a truly bizarre beast in that it both feels out of date and also as if now is the perfect time for it. Jokes about killing Justin Bieber are at least five years out of date and cameos from the likes of Susan Boyle feel like they’ve missed the zeitgeist by a country mile. However, the characters of Derek and Hansel are a perfect fit for the narcissistic era of Instagram and the selfie stick.
I’m going to retire, withdraw from public life, and become a hermit crab.
The film feels like a first draft of what could have been a decent comedy. The jokes veer wildly from the kind of broad slapstick beloved by the Apatow crowd to utter surrealism. It’s strange to see a film in which casual jibes about swimwear models butt heads with a bizarre running motif in which Kiefer Sutherland is part of the most diverse orgy in history. Unfortunately for Zoolander 2, none of the comedy actually works. There are a couple of mild chuckles in the script, but huge swathes of the bloated runtime pass by without so much as a smirk.
These gaps are filled by an endless parade of celebrity cameos. By the time the credits roll, enough famous faces have turned up to make even the Muppets blush. Rather than inserting these faces in order to create the maximum comedic impact, they often simply just pop up for long enough that another character can shout their name. After all, they wouldn’t want anyone to miss the joke. Like the film itself, these cameos seem to be lifted from a bygone era in which people like Sting and Susan Boyle still have cultural relevance.
The performers, too, seem bored by what they’re being asked to do. Stiller and Wilson are on autopilot with their usual shtick and Kristen Wiig is simply saddled with the hilarious quirk of mispronouncing vowels. Zoolander 2 only comes to life when Will Ferrell makes his return as Mugatu, who is the kind of over-the-top supervillain who deserves a far better film than this. Ferrell’s comic energy is unmatched by anything else the film has to offer and he even manages to sell the completely loony finale, which comes across as a half-hour whiteboard session rather than a polished script.
You really are amazingly stupid, aren’t you?
The reason for the original Zoolander film’s wild success was in the esteem it gradually built as a cult classic. That sort of lightning in a bottle is impossible to replicate and that’s where Zoolander 2 falls completely on its rear end. It is unsure whether to commit to its bizarro tendencies or go for the kind of lowest common denominator comedy that could make it a box office hit. In the end, it chooses neither and finds itself lost in the unfunny wasteland between those two styles.
Pop or Poop?
Zoolander 2 is a film that totally and utterly missed its potential window of success. If the sequel had come out four or five years ago, it could have capitalised on the cult popularity of its predecessor and commented on the selfie culture at its root. In 2016, though, it feels like a lame cash-in without the creativity required to take even a lazy swipe at modern self-obsession.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.