Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Will Ferrell, Penelope Cruz
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Like its predecessor, the best bits of this sequel are in the isolated moments…
Following a similar trajectory to Anchorman and its sequel, the Ben Stiller-directed and starring Zoolander was released way back in 2001 to middling box office results and semi-appreciative reviews, but has since become somewhat of a comedy staple. And now 15 years later, the sequel has arrived and follows the formula set by Anchorman 2: go bigger and crazier with the story, and the cameo appearances. Meanwhile, ensure one’s lead character exhibits no personal growth and remains just as dumb.
The film opens with Derek Zoolander bummed over the fact that he accidentally killed his wife when his “School For Kids That Can’t Read Good and Want To Do Other Good Things Too” literally crushed her, due to negligible building designs. His son is removed from his care, and Derek decides to become a “hermit crab” and retreats to a cabin in the mountains. He’s lured out of seclusion though by Billy Zane (why not?), who convinces Derek that he can reunite with his son if he can get his modelling career back on track. Meanwhile, Derek’s former rival-turned-friend, Hansel (Owen Wilson), was also permanently disfigured in the collapse of the school, and has been living somewhere in the desert with a group he affectionately calls “Orgy”. When Hansel finds out he’s going to become a father eleven times, he also heads back to the catwalk in an attempt to find himself. However, the former top models learn that they’re now old news, and the hottest supermodel on the circuit is an androgynous-looking model who goes by the name of All (Benedict Cumberbatch in a one-minute role that was not worthy of all the internet backlash). Throw in a convoluted plot about a criminal mastermind killing the world’s most beautiful people, which is under investigation by Penelope Cruz’s swimsuit model turned agent, and that’s the no-sense plot of Zoolander 2.
As a director, Ben Stiller’s films – which include Zoolander, The Cable Guy, Tropic Thunder and The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty – have always been filled with a scattered, anything goes-type humour, and that’s proven both a strength and a shortcoming. Nowhere is that more evident than in Zoolander 2. Like its predecessor, the best bits of this sequel are in the isolated moments – Derek momentarily considering disowning his son when he discovers he’s fat, Hansel revealing his “disfigured face” for the first time much to Derek’s repulsion – rather than the film hanging together as a cohesive whole. While this sequel again opts for absurd humour over sharp satire, its predecessor hinged on a plot about the fashion industry’s exploitation of child labour, but the convoluted plot in Zoolander 2 results in a funny but pretty empty pay-off. And with the exclusion of selfies, hashtags and Instagram, it seems not too much has changed in the world of high fashion modelling, with this shallow world largely indistinguishable from the first – which may be the point. The whole here is definitely not greater than the sum of its parts, but lucky many of these parts are ridiculously funny.