Tweetable Takeaway: Zoolander 2 is stacked with so much nonsense, there’s no other outcome but for it to topple over. Tweet
ZOOLANDER 2, much like Dumb and Dumber To, offers up yet more proof that sequels to films from the ’90s and early ’00s do not need to happen – no matter how much of an impact those films have had on pop culture in the years since. But alas, what’s done is done. Now the world has to live with this mess of dated jokes and gratuitous cameos, all of which amount to nothing but a heaping pile of lazy nostalgia porn.
The movie begins with a high-speed chase of a hooded figure — which turns out to be Justin Bieber. His becomes the latest in a slew of mysterious murders of pop stars being investigated by Valentina (Penelope Cruz), an agent at Interpol Fashion Division (okay, whatever). Before said pop stars die, they take a selfie flashing a signature Zoolander look. This gimmick turns out to be as unfunny in the movie as it is in the trailers.
Valentina puts two and two together and figures that the only person who could help her solve this case is Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller), naturally. But since his wife was killed during a freak building accident and his child was taken away, he goes by the name Eric Toolander (*groan*) and has exiled himself in the “extreme cold” of Northern New Jersey (*double groan*).
His fellow male model, Hansel (Owen Wilson), has also been missing in action. He was also injured in the aforementioned building accident, which has left him “horribly disfigured”. He lives in the desolated desert with an orgy crew that includes Kiefer Sutherland. When Hansel learns that everyone in the orgy crew of is pregnant (including the guys), he flees.
But wait. Whether you like it or not, there’s more.
The two estranged friends receive word from Billy Zane that their presence is requested by fashion and beauty mogul, Alexanya Atoz (Kristen Wiig) in Rome. She has asked them to walk in a fashion show for the hottest hipster designer, Don Atari (Kyle Mooney).
While in Rome, Derek discovers that his “plus-size” son lives there. After a less-than-successful reunion with Derek Jr., we discover that Alexanya is in cahoots with Mugatu (Will Ferrell) and he plans on kidnapping his son because he thinks he is the “chosen one” that will bring the top names in the fashion industry, including himself, eternal youth. When all of this is revealed, Derek, Hansel, and Valentina go on a rescue mission.
During a climactic point in the movie, Mugatu has a meltdown, saying how everything and everyone around him is stupid. He is totally right.
Without a doubt, Stiller created something special with Zoolander in 2001. It became a sort of pop cultural benchmark, with the term “blue steel” becoming a meme before memes even existed — that was 2001. It’s 2016, and the jokes that worked then hardly work now. That’s what this movie was: a 2001 joke trying to be told to a new audience in 2016. The movie is the equivalent of watching your crazy uncle who wears bedazzled jeans struggle to fit in at an artisanal cocktail lounge.
The movie addresses this to a certain extent in exploration of how Derek and Hansel became has-beens, but that story stops dead in its tracks. Halfway through, it becomes a movie about a father and his estranged son… but who cares? People came here to soak in Zoolander-isms, not a throwaway family story that proves to be a boring waste of our time. If the focus was on ageism in the fashion industry and Derek and Hansel’s modeling career comeback (which it started off as), then the movie probably could have been tolerable.
The jokes hardly land and when they do, they still don’t make up for the fact that this movie is trying to squeeze a giggle out of the audience. Cruz tends to miss beats to make her lines funny while Stiller and Wilson hardly do anything to heighten their characters. It’s like we’re watching them in 2001 all over again. Even though the movie is filled with an uproarious amount of lame humor, there are some glimmers of hope with Wiig’s underused Donatella Versace-esque Atoz (who only gets about 10 minutes of screen time) and Ferrell’s Mugatu. They made most of their roles and reached a level of ridiculousness that was eclipsed by the movie’s recycled and dead-in-the-water comedy.
There really isn’t any story for us to bite into, but tries to charm its way with characters that have become a brand and cameos — and there are SO many cameos that brag “LOOK WHO WE GOT TO BE IN OUR MOVIE!” In addition to Bieber, Zane, and Sutherland; Ariana Grande, Fred Armisen, Naomi Campbell, Sting, and Willie Nelson — yes, Willie Nelson — all make appearances. Images of Madonna, Usher, Demi Lovato, and Bruce Springsteen also pop up. Then there is the herd of fashion luminaries that wedge their way into the final act: Marc Jacobs, Alexander Wang, Tommy Hilfiger, Kate Moss, and Anna Wintour. Although fun to see, it still doesn’t make this movie good. Rather, the explicit cameos weigh down the movie, giving it an embarrassing, desperate and pandering feel — Benedict Cumberbatch’s role as androgynous supermodel, All, being a notable exception. His performance provided some much needed laughs — but the “hot dog” or “bun” comments needed to be tweaked to appease trans-insensitivity.
Zoolander 2 is stacked with so much nonsense, there seems to be no other possible outcome but for it to topple over. It plays out like a B-movie that would have been made by Cannon Films in the ’80s. It’s garish, tacky, tasteless, and forcefully funny. The only difference is that Cannon Films would have made it watchable. Sure, you can make movies that are awesomely bad. This is not one of them.
Dino-Ray Ramos watches too much TV and laughs inappropriately during dramatic films. He’s a fan of comedy, podcasts, and comedy podcasts. He’s a reformed comic book geek and thinks “The Goonies” is the best movie of all time. When he isn’t stuffing his face with a burrito, he’s thinking about his next trip to Disneyland.
Dino-Ray Ramos | Staff Writer