Starring: Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Penelope Cruz, Will Farrell, Kristen Wiig, Justin Theroux, Nathan Lee Graham, Kyle Mooney, Christine Taylor, Cyrus Arnold, Fred Armisen, Benedict Cumberbatch & Billy Zane! | Screenplay by: Justin Theroux, Ben Stiller, Nicholas Stoller & John Hamburg | Director: Ben Stiller
For a moment, Derek Zoolander was on top of the world. Hailed as a hero for saving the Malaysian Prime Minister, married to a fairly attractive yet really smart lady, and lauded as a philanthropist for opening the Derek Zoolander Center For Kids Who Can’t Read Good And Wanna Learn To Do Other Stuff Good Too, there was nothing DZ could do wrong. Well, except accidentally destroy his own center, lose his kid, and enact a self-imposed exile. Other than that, he’s doing fantastically well.
Fast forward to one random day fifteen years later, Derek (Ben Stiller) and his former BFF Hansel (Owen Wilson) are given the opportunity to reinvigorate their careers, but it somehow turns into a labyrinthine conspiracy that pervades the entirety of the fashion world. The results of which unveil the super elite’s sinister quest to seek the Fountain of Youth to gain immortality (and increase sales). Because, of course.
Zoolander 2 tries its best to stay timely with today’s pop culture but the film suffers a fate similar to Derek and Hansel’s hardship among the current crop of nouveau riche: it’s almost become irrelevant. The plot itself felt like two extremely divergent stories that were stapled together haphazardly with overworked, unremarkable yuks. In the time that’s passed neither model has grown beyond their selfishness, despite their progression at the conclusion of the first film. Matter of fact, they’ve regressed. It’s reasonable to assume their jokes are old hat because they’re meant to represent an era that is already ancient memory to fashion folk. However the new blood – led by Alexanya Atoz (Kristen Wiig) and Don Atari (Kyle Mooney) – suffer from stale gimmicks seen by audiences many a time, though redressed in a flamboyant manner.
Ten minutes into this hyper-stylish surrealistic world ruled by the dull-witted and vainglorious, it’s difficult to draw out a honest laugh. Not only because many of the jokes are too predictable but there were a lot of missed opportunities to burn current and former trends. Fifteen years ago, Zoolander was an unapologetic satire on the ludicrousness of the fashion industry. Now that everyone is in on the joke, the radical idea has become the institution. Even the supposed genius designs on display at Don Atari’s show appears to be a retread of the Derlecte collection; perhaps it was a deliberate portent for things to come for the hapless duo or simply an inadvertent slip in the writing process and all villains love haggard looking clothes.
If there’s anything that’ll leave audiences particularly amused, it is the myriad of cameos throughout Zoolander 2. The film begins with the much publicized appearance by Justin Bieber (who gets taken out in an extremely graphic and surprisingly rousing fashion) and follows through with appearances by luminaries from music, film, fashion and …science? While some cameos are hit and miss, the ones that work really work.
Zoolander 2 doesn’t hit its stride until the second half when Derek reacquaints himself with Jacobim Mugatu (Will Farrell) inside the deepest recesses of fashion jail. A big piece of the comic puzzle, Farrell injects the right balance of rationale and mania his homicidal fashion designer is renown for exhibiting. In the snap of his fingers and sip of a latte, Mugatu flips the entire film on its head and reveals himself to be the Moriarty to Derek’s feebleminded Sherlock. In nearly every scene, Mugatu is literally dressed to kill with multiple wardrobe changes. Farrell’s antics tend to become repetitive in some of his more pedestrian films, a drawback that he doesn’t suffer while slipping back in the most outlandish role of his career.
The absurdity of Mugatu somehow righted the film from its wayward path, going full steam towards the apex of farcicality. Nothing and no one was going to come between Jacobim and fulfilling his vengeance on Zoolander. The final act features a who’s who of the fashion world and in classic Farrell fashion, he hacks them to pieces with his signature scream-wit.
Ultimately, Zoolander 2 is almost as good as the first and actually contains solid themes of perseverance, fatherhood and redemption. Problem is, audiences have to endure some stodgy scenes in between. The inordinate number of cameos nearly suck the air out of the room, but Farrell and Cryus Arnold’s portrayal of Derek Jr bring the right balance of levity and common sense to this wildly bizarre, harebrained, self-aggrandizing universe of really ridiculously good looking people.
I ate at least 1000 calories while watching a bunch of beautiful people strut, pose and dodge gunfire… and I DON’T FEEL GUILTY IN THE SLIGHTEST.