Movie Review: Zoolander 2

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After years of seclusion, Derek Zoolander returns to the world of high fashion in order to reunite with his son.

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Ben Stiller, 2016

Fifteen years after a tragic(ally stupid) accident killed his wife, Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller) is living in self-imposed exile. when pop stars start dying with his signature expressions on their faces. This causes fashion police officer Valentina (Penelope Cruz) to search for him. He comes out of hiding when he receives an invitation to participate in an exclusive fashion show, hoping the job will help him reunite with his son Derek Jr. (Cyrus Arnold). Meanwhile, Hansel (Owen Wilson), who was scarred in the accident that killed Mathilda and has also been out of the fashion game, is on the brink of a big life change. He is also invited to participate in the fashion show, modelling clothes designed by Alexanya Atoz (Kristen Wiig). After a less than cordial reunion, Hansel and Derek find that fashion has changed in the years that they’ve been gone. Not only that, but something sinister is going on behind the scenes, and it can all be traced back to the villainous Mugatu (Will Ferrell).

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Zoolander 2 is not a good movie. It’s badly written, with a terrible premise, and it’s just not funny. The film is definitely out of touch with what’s cool and fashionable now, but it’s not even that the jokes in this movie are dated. They wouldn’t have been funny in 2001 either. One gets the feeling that they had an idea for the story and thought the funny would happen during filming, and then as filming went on the funny failed to appear on set and save them all. While Zoolander found its humour at the corner of absurd and silly while still existing within its own internal logic, Zoolander 2 constantly breaks from those confines. There are no consequences for the characters’ actions, so none of the stakes seem real. The jokes are also a lot meaner this time around. The film doesn’t really seem to like Derek Zoolander or Hansel anymore – the jokes are on them, rather than gently ribbing them while taking their side. And the fat jokes about Derek Jr. are appalling. At one point they gag this teenage boy with an apple. It’s so uncomfortably unfunny. There are certainly moments that transcend the mediocrity – an “aqua vitae” advertisement featuring Tyra Banks that’s shot in black and white and a cameo from Neil DeGrasse Tyson are probably the film’s highlights – but with a plot this complicated and no jokes to save it, the film never lives up to its predecessor.

The performances in the film don’t strike the right note, either. Will Ferrell seems to be trying the hardest to recapture the magic, his Mugatu as manic as ever, but he’s got a lot more bite this time around. There is a funny segment when he tricks his way out of fashion prison, but for the rest of the time his overacting mostly gets in the way. Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson fail to recapture their old chemistry. Hansel particularly gets the short end of the storytelling stick, though both characters are stuck with tired narratives. The movie treats women even worse than the first film – Ben Stiller’s own wife’s character is fridged off-screen and appears in roughly the same capacity as Leonardo DiCaprio’s wife in The Revenant (seriously, once you see it…). Meanwhile, Penelope Cruz’s jokes seem to mostly revolve around how hot she is and her boobs. It doesn’t feel like she fits in this movie. Of the new cast, Kristen Wiig wrings some laughs out of her unintelligible baddie, but the rest don’t make a dent. The movie fails to take advantage of the hype surrounding it, too – there’s a segment at the end that was filmed at a real fashion show in Europe, but it’s a heavily edited segment that doesn’t take advantage of its setting. The celebrity cameos lack the weird hilarity that the first film’s celebs had, even though they’re game. Ultimately, Zoolander 2 is a film that wasn’t worth making, and that’s sad for everyone.

Zoolander 2 on IMDb

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