When the ripened fruits of life begin to rot, turning light into dark, we instinctively reminisce about brighter, more comforting times. It’s the yin and yang of reality, balancing highs with lows. Where am I going with this mumbo jumbo? Well, cinema is art, and art imitates life – welcome to the never-ending cycle.
Right now, as we sit through an endless rotation of mainstream comedy duds, it’s very easy to look back on the Anchorman/Dodgeball era as better days. As of late, what should be a chuckle-filled genre has morphed into a mercilessly uninventive slog of reboots and remakes (Vacation/Dumb And Dumber To), but not too long ago, we were laughing hysterically at the likes of Stiller, Ferrell, and other “Frat Pack” goofballs. A movie like Zoolander still remains essential to college dorm Blu-Ray collections, and with studios focusing less on originality, I’m sure Zoolander 2 sounded, to many, like the rebirth of funny.
Yet, it appears we invested too much faith in the 15-years-later return of Derek Zoolander (Stiller). Unfortunately, he’s not the hero we remember, nor is he the one we need right now.
Since saving the Prime Minister of Malaysia and foiling Mugatu’s (Will Ferrell) master plan, Derek Zoolander has only found pain. On the same day he lost his children’s learning facility, the Derek Zoolander Center For Kids Who Can’t Read Good, he also lost his wife, Matilda (Christine Taylor). Derek attempts to raise Derek Jr. alone, but it’s not long before Social Services deems him an unfit father, and removes Derek Jr. from his inept custody.
Destroyed, Derek goes into hiding somewhere atop the snowiest New Jersey mountain, never to be heard from again – until he’s invited by fashionista Alexanya Atoz (Kristen Wiig) to model in Rome. Derek agrees, but only so he can prove he’s a fit guardian for his now-orphaned son, who just happens to be located in Rome as well. Along with Hansel (Owen Wilson). Plus Interpol’s fashion division. And Neil Degrasse Tyson? Yeeeeeeup, here we go.
Zoolander 2 isn’t necessarily a terrible comedy, but it’s certainly a lazy, cameo-laced stretch. Punchlines are rarely thought-out, and instead, comedy relies on famous faces appearing out of nowhere. We get it – everyone involved has famous friends. That doesn’t mean they all deserve a part in your movie, and that certainly doesn’t mean they’ll distract us from a downgraded, rarely-excitable stupidity level that never reaches the hype garnered by Zoolander’s first legendary gaze. Let’s put it this way: if you drank every time a random celebrity popped up, you’d be dead before Sting got to brag about his tremendous sexual stamina. But at least you’d get to see Justin Bieber’s gangster-style death!
I can’t stress how stupid, moronic, and brain-dead this sleep-walking script ends up being (which is admittedly half complimentary given that this is a Zoolander sequel). Yes, some classic model intelligence scores a few decent laughs, such as when Derek doesn’t know the difference between a Tyrannosaurus and a Thesaurus, but other shticks are both far too expected and thoughtlessly lame. Case in point: Derek’s son obviously grows up to be a chubby porker, which makes Derek Sr. question if he’ll ever love him again. Shocker, right?
No better is young designer Don Atari’s (Kyle Mooney) hipster lingo, growing tiresome after negative seven seconds. Zoolander 2 is just the next film in line to hate on ironic fads and skinny jeans, and while Mooney’s immersion into retro-fitted snobbishness can be lightly comical, the overplayed stereotype becomes a nuisance. Same goes for Derek’s continual ability to remain oblivious to traps, or an introductory conversation that starts every sentence with the word “slash” (in an effort to keep categorizing Derek). How could a movie 15 years in the making only master one, tepid note?
Stiller and Wilson do flash their signature looks and lovable dopiness after a slower first act, but the real winner here is Penélope Cruz, who plays their Interpol connection, Valentina. To no one’s surprise, she reveals her forgotten swimsuit model past and curses her luscious, natural flotation devices for being too big for runway sizes (Stiller, you lucky bastard). It’s an easy jab, but I laughed.
Mix in Kiefer Sutherland’s orgy-member appearance, Billy Zane’s Netflix delivery man (EVERYONE NEEDS MORE ZANE), and Benedict Cumberbatch’s all-knowing alter-ego, and you’ll find some solid glimmers of hope, followed by sad, pucker-mouthed dead looks. Even Wiig, caught in her inaudible accent and larva-like dress, struggles to get a laugh – a sad statement that I’ve never before said about the otherwise lovely, fearless, expert comedian. And a Susan Boyle cameo? Were Snooki, Taylor Hicks, or Omarosa too busy?
Zoolander 2 is just another name-based comedy sequel that brings nothing new to the table, seemingly content to coast by on star-power alone. As long as people keep laughing when famous designers like Marc Jacobs and Tommy Hilfiger reveal themselves to be blood-lusting cultists, you’re in the clear – right? Wrong.
Derek Zoolander already played the “I’m too stupid to save the day” card over a decade ago, and apparently it still hasn’t been long enough to cash-in on the same brand of mentally stunted humor. He may be really, really, ridiculously good-looking, but Zoolander’s second adventure is sadly the shallow, hollow affair you’d expect from an all-for-show “franchise” better left untouched.
Plus, there’s a Fat Jew cameo. Talk about a kiss of death.
Zoolander 2 is another comedy "sequel for sequel's sake," trading thoroughly thought-out jokes for a distracting parade of celebrity cameos.