For fashion icon Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller), even the simplest of tasks — like cooking pasta and tying shoes — are too much for the man to handle without someone’s help. That’s because the guy is an absolute idiot. Sadly, the only thing that proves to be more idiotic than the actions of the titular character of this post Y2K cult classic, is the production boss that actually thinks people will pay to see this disaster of a sequel. What was once a comedy hipper than even the tightest pair of skinny jeans, is all but destroyed with a follow-up that feels staler than last year’s fashion trends.
A perennial choice of seemingly every cable network that features weeknight movies, 2001’s “Zoolander” might just be one of the most re-watchable movies of the new millennium. It’s one of those offbeat films that perfectly straddles the line between being absurdly witty and resoundingly banal. But just like high fashion, some things age better than others. Fifteen years later, the same voices from the first film, including stars Owen Wilson, Will Ferrell, and Ben Stiller, who not only plays the title role but also directed and co-wrote both movies, are back with “Zoolander 2.” This time, though, the comedy team misses the mark completely.
As a quick refresher, Zoolander — the model — used to be the king of the fashion world. Well, at least until orgy loving rival Hansel (Wilson) threatened to derail his career. Eventually, however, Zoolander and Hansel become best buds and even work together to thwart the evil plans of fashion designer Jacobim Mugatu (Ferrell).
Now for “Zoolander 2.” The audience is treated to some helpful introductory news footage and a few funny cameos — most notably from Justin Bieber. This is also when we find out that Zoolander’s wife (Christine Taylor) was killed in a tragic accident that simultaneously resulted in the government decreeing Zoolander unfit as a father. Disgraced and jobless, Derek decides to live out the remainder of his life as a “hermit crab.”
That is until an opportunity presents itself in the form of a comeback show with elite designer Alexanya Atoz (Kristin Wiig). The show also gives Zoolander the potential to win his son back. Oh, and somehow all this father/son reunion stuff all connects to the murder of several celebrities who all died with Zoolander’s patented “Blue Steel” look on their bloodied, but nonetheless, really, really, ridiculously good looking faces.
The first film’s story was by no means Shakespearean, but “Zoolander 2’s” plotline is particularly asinine. It seems like this time around Stiller and crew have crafted a story that exists solely to keep the audience distracted as the camera hops from one celebrity cameo to the next. While it is exciting to see such fashion icons as Marc Jacobs and Tommy Hilfiger share the screen with Derek and Hansel, these encounters feel forced into the story rather than complementary to the overall narrative.
Without any actual jokes or spoofery to back the film up, Stiller — the director — has to rely on zany outfits and allusions to the first film to guide the action in this one. The pungent smell of desperation definitely hangs in the air from opening to closing credits. It’s almost like one of those laughable men’s deodorant lines Derek used to advertise half naked and CGI grafted on top of the body of a stallion.
Despite featuring primarily the same cast as the original — Stiller, Wilson, Farrell, etc. — there are a few new faces added to the mix. Penelope Cruz (Blow) plays an Interpol agent in the Fashion Police division. She doesn’t get any funny lines, but that’s because no one gets very many of those. Kristin Wiig is also brought on board as fashion mogul Alexanya Atoz. Her bizarre accent is cute at first, but becomes absolutely nauseating by film’s end.
As a director, Stiller attempts to cover up all of the film’s mistakes with a combination of international locations, a contemporary music score, and heightened on-screen insanity. Yet, even the brain-dead Derek himself would be able to see through all these smoke and mirrors tricks.
“Zoolander 2” is so disappointing it actually makes me wonder if the movie’s stars are not only pass their prime in the fashion world they are spoofing, but also the film world they have made their careers in. I’ll take watching the original for the 400th time over having to suffer through this sequel again any day.
Running Time: 1hr 42min
Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content, a scene of exaggerated violence, and brief strong language