ZOOLANDER 2 Review
Director: Ben Stiller
It’s pretty telling that in a year that has already produced FIFTY SHADES OF BLACK, ZOOLANDER 2 is perhaps the most widely reviled film of 2016. And yes, there are a lot of warning signs that things could be pretty bad here. For one, it’s a long gap sequel. As we’ve seen with DUMB AND DUMBER TO, VACATION and JURASSIC WORLD, these tend to be misfires (come at me, nerds). Sure you get the occasional MAD MAX: FURY ROAD, but ZOOLANDER 2 is not that movie. The second sign that things were not going well in the ZOOLANDER 2 camp is that the film became mired in controversy before its release. Generally, cis white dudes like myself and all four of the film’s screenwriters should steer clear of writing trans/intersex characters as jokes, but instead we have Benedict Cumberbatch’s All. All is the androgynous muse of designer Don Atari (an insipid hipster stereotype) and is the butt of the worst joke in the movie: “Do you have a hot dog or a bun?” This led to seriously bad press, along with boycotts of the film. Critics didn’t think much better, as it sits at a 22% on Rotten Tomatoes. But can the followup to one of the biggest cult comedy hits of the 21st century really be that bad?
Bad call, Ben
The film follows the now far older and far more disgraced male model Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller) as he returns to the catwalk after fifteen years in hiding. He has retreated to an icy wilderness (that the film informs us is “Extreme Northern New Jersey”) after the collapse of the infamous Derek Zoolander Center For Kids Who Can’t Read Good And Wanna Learn To Do Other Stuff Good Too. The calamity led to the death of Zoolander’s wife and the disfiguring of former-competitor-turned-friend Hansel’s (Owen Wilson) face, as well as the eventual seizing of Zoolander’s son by Child Protective Services. The two models are reunited by invitations to model for fashion icon Alexanya Atoz (Kristen Wiig in some ghastly makeup) delivered by Billy Zane (Billy Zane). Sounds pretty stupid, right?
The Yeezy Season 3 crossover was unexpected
Here’s the thing, though: I laughed my ass off quite a bit at ZOOLANDER 2. This is the exact kind of light, silly fun that’s missing from modern comedies. The tragedy is that instead of staying in its comedic zone and cranking out these jokes consistently, ZOOLANDER 2 allows itself to get sidetracked at nearly every turn. The most obvious impediment to the film are the constant celebrity cameos. They range in quality from Justin Bieber getting his chest liquified by a hail of gunfire (good) to Marc Jacobs pretending to be scared for his life (not so good). Regardless, people love the characters of Derek Zoolander and Hansel ‒ they should be the ones carrying the movie. And they can! Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson definitely still have it, and their rapport as they overcome their differences over the film’s first act is a highlight of the film.
In general, Wilson gets the better bits of the two. He gets to spend time doing silly sight gags or trying to resist the temptation to cheat on his regular pansexual orgy with a different pansexual orgy. Stiller is stuck trying to carry the plot and emotion in a movie that didn’t have much interest in developing either. He has a half-baked romance storyline with Penelope Cruz’s Valentina, a former swimsuit model who now works as an investigator in the fashion division of INTERPOL. Cruz does her best, but her character is an oversexed plaything whose whole history centers around the size of her chest. He also has to reconcile with his son Derek Jr., who has become fat (AAAAAAAGHHHH!) in the pasta-friendly confines of the Italian orphanage he was inexplicably sent to. It doesn’t quite work on any level other than comedy. I happen to think it’s hilarious that INTERPOL would have a fashion division (and as is later revealed, a fashion prison) and that an American child would be sent to grow up in an Italian orphanage that is located in a castle. That’s the kind of thing that makes me laugh.
Unfortunately, if it isn’t the kind of thing that makes you laugh, there isn’t much here for you. The third act is a total mess, as the celebrity cameos go out of control and Will Ferrell’s return as Mugatu doesn’t provide as much lift as ZOOLANDER 2 needs not to skid to a unsatisfying stop. It’s not DEADPOOL level unfunny, but I can’t in good conscience recommend it to the viewing public who might not share my love for all things absurd.
Verdict: Do Not Recommend