2001’s Zoolander was an often uproarious novelty of a pic that showed Ben Stiller’s ability to essentially take a sketch character and stretch the premise out successfully for 90 minutes. The original took us into the incredibly narcissistic and dumb world of male modeling coupled with nonsensical international intrigue involving the attempted assassination of the Malaysian prime minister. It worked because of its star/director’s enthusiasm behind it and the fact it was a pretty original comedy at the time.
Most movies in this genre don’t need sequels. This is one of them. The novelty has worn badly. Zoolander 2 brings back almost everything and everyone that made us laugh fifteen years ago and has no clue what to do with them. Derek Zoolander (Stiller) is now a has been model living as a recluse. This is following a tragic accident involving his Center for Kids Who Can’t Read Good that was erected in the predecessor’s conclusion. His family life is shattered as is his ability to lock down his iconic facial expressions at opportune moments.
Derek soon finds himself recruited (by Billy Zane no less) to return to the real world when gorgeous celebrities start being offed. An Interpol agent (Penelope Cruz) believes both he and Hansel (Owen Wilson) can be of service. The bonkers plot (so was Zoolander’s, to be fair) finds a way to bring back Mugatu (Will Ferrell), in addition to scores of celeb cameos from the music and fashion world. The Fountain of Youth is involved. Derek finds himself trying to connect with his estranged son. Oh and Sting plays himself as a somewhat mythical figure, which isn’t much of a stretch. And there’s Kristin Wiig in unrecognizable makeup as a designer.
Any picture with these performers will have a few funny moments just based on the odds. I will admit that Kiefer Sutherland (playing himself) and his relationship status with Hansel provided a smile. And yet they are truly few and far between. Zoolander 2 is a title in search of a reason to exist that doesn’t find it. It feels lazy, unneeded, and desperate. For a director like Stiller that has shown so much ability with part one and Tropic Thunder and others, it’s surprising to find No. 2 even looking and feeling drab. I was satisfied at the original when Derek flashed Blue Steel, that magical look. It’s here, but my advice is look away. There’s little magic around.
*1/2 (out of four)