Back in 2001, the original Zoolander movie came out like a small miracle. Mocking the fashion world while fully embracing the looks, glamour and style every criticizer secretly fancies, it featured vivid, catwalk-ready characters, outlandish scenarios as far-fetched as the idea of an industry built on vanity is preposterous, and jokes that played heavily on stereotypes albeit with an adoring twinkle in their eyes. Like Elle Woods from Legally Blonde, Derek Zoolander was a wholly unique creation who confronted us with our own hypocrisy as he made us laugh and laugh.
Fast forward 15 years, the über-stupid male model ends his self-imposed reclusion following a personal tragedy and tries to pick up his career in an attempt to win back his estranged son, who’s now living in Italian foster care. His old buddy Hansel (Wilson) happens to also be summoned out of retirement to be in Rome. It doesn’t take long for them to realise they’re caught in another murderous plot involving designers and celebrities. Together with an improbably curvy agent from the Interpol Fashion Division (Cruz), they must solve the mystery and once again defeat evil mastermind Mugatu (Ferrell).
So story-wise there’s plenty to work with in this long-gestated sequel, though that might be part of its problem, as too many subplots give the comedy an overall messy feel and unnecessarily complicate something that has no reason being complicated. When Zoolander & Co. aren’t busy explaining themselves in laboriously dumbed-down ways, they go hard for the nostalgia, which is admittedly what got the movie made in the first place. It’s sad nonetheless to witness classic scenes so tirelessly recycled with diminishing returns. Fans everywhere would probably rather have their Orange Mocha Frappuccino! moment perfectly stowed away in memory than see it butchered in a quick bit of half-hearted reenactment.
The dispiriting lack of originality or an organic, unburdened humour aside, Zoolander 2 does feature enough stand-alone ha-ha gags to entertain on a reflexive level. Over-the-top character designs and an endless supply of star cameos provide constant, amusing distraction, while Kristen Wiig just kills her unfortunately limited role of a Donatella-on-steroid type fashionista, brilliant from the facial muscle movement down to the alien speech pattern. So as generally uninspired as the 102 minutes might be, boring they are not.
Vaguely reminiscent of something you used to love but looking forced in its every attempt at sophistication, this can be labeled as another case of trying too hard to top an earlier self.
Zoolander 2 | Directed by: Ben Stiller, starring: Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Penélope Cruz, Will Ferrell, Kristen Wiig. Starts Febuary 18