Who wants to hear the story of Adam and Eve, and Steve… No one? Good because it’s a stupid story.
Former models Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller) and Hansel find themselves thrust back into the spotlight after living in seclusion for years. Invited to a major fashion event in Rome, the estranged friends are surprised to see how much the business has changed. Even more shocking is their encounter with Valentina Valencia, a special agent who needs their help. Someone is killing famous pop stars, and it’s up to Derek and Hansel to help save the world’s most beautiful people from a similar fate.
The original Zoolander was released a short time after the horrible attacks on 9/11. The world was a much different place then, and Zoolander struggled to find an audience amidst a great tragedy. The film caught a second wind on DVD endearing to fans the world over and solidifying it’s now cult status. The witty and satirical cut on high fashion and an industry, female dominated, was turned on it’s axis as Stiller and Wilson delivered poignant topical humor draped in absurdity, with just the right amount of lavish fluff. More than anything, Zoolander was funny. Fast forward 15 years into the future to present day, and the world has once again shifted. We have recovered from great tragedy and flourished in it’s wake. The industry has changed a great deal as well. We are now living in a world where sequels are nothing if they do not out do their earlier installments. We need bigger payoffs and grander visuals. Each new iteration has to up the ante, but to what end? Comedy sequels in particular have transformed into a lifeless schlock of stale and emotionless garbage. The goal is to improve and build upon the previous incarnations of a story, where the characters are revisited and revitalized. Zoolander 2 unfortunately falls into the trap of the sophomore slump of comedies, and spends most of it’s run time trying to out glamor it’s predecessor instead of just trying to be entertaining.
Zoolander 2 struggles with timing the same way the original did, this time meeting an America, not recovering from tragedy, but instead an America that simply does not know or care about this franchise. This should have been part of the fun, the film had built in meta humor for the simple fact that much like the characters, the actual franchise has grown old and has been largely forgotten. The problem is the film is not smart enough to recognize this and in turn wastes it’s opportunity to exploit it. This is a sequel for sequels sake, and for all intents and purposes was completely unnecessary. That said, Ben Stiller does not seem to care, and he is determined to mine every single dollar he can from franchises that are better left untouched, case and point, the Meet The Fockers franchise, which found a way to spill into a trilogy of monotonous nonsense. Zoolander 2 does not separate itself from the original, which poses a serious problem since the original happened 15 years ago, and an entire generation of new movie goers either have not seen, or do not remember the film. The movie is dumb, but not in the glorious, knowingly dumb sense that the original was draped in. Zoolander relied on it’s hilarious satirical hijinks, sharply written and performed, while the sequel comes off boorish, pompous and dull. What may be most egregious is that Zoolander 2 becomes mean spirited at times. The original was refreshing and overtly outlandish in it’s preposterous body shaming that was sarcasm at it’s finest. Zoolander 2 abandons sarcasm and restraint and instead comes off as rude and arrogant in it’s full blown offensive fat shaming.
The overarching story to this film, is filled with erroneous twists and needless shenanigans meant to induce laughs, but instead are followed by crickets. Each gag is poorly set up, and childishly executed. The lavish set pieces are meant to mask the ineptitude of the narrative, but they spotlight it instead. The plot has so many ridiculous ins and outs, stuffed to the gills with rabid conspiracies. Each plot twist further convoluted an already dizzying story that leads to nowhere and does so in a way that is so frustratingly unoriginal, and obnoxious, that the end credits will come as sweet release to the onslaught of nonsense endured. The irony here, is for a film centered on aesthetics, it’s painfully edited, and muddled together. The visuals are brutal at times, as it seems that Stiller, who directed this and the original, has lost any talent for lighting or scene structuring. The film is pieced together with a complete lack of care or concern for coherence. There are a gaggle of cameos that are lost in the fray due to poor execution behind the camera.
Gratuitous cameos can be a delight, if they are used properly, and drive the story. Zoolander 2 decides not to follow the path the original set forth and did it’s best to jam pack the movie full of absurd celebs meant to be crowd pleasing, but instead come off as gimmicky. From Billy Zane to Ariana Grande, the cameos are an assembly line of incoherence that sideline the narrative and serve no purpose other than to help sell tickets. The performances are cartoonish, but in all the worst ways. Stiller and Wilson try so hard to recapture the essence of their characters, but they are shells of their former selves, and produce no chemistry en route to a lackluster two hours of forced humor. The new additions are almost all misses. Penelope Cruz is beautiful, but her character is poorly fleshed out and confusing at times. Kristin Wiig’s role as Alexanya Atoz is obnoxious and dull, and lacks any comedic persuasion. Will Ferrel’s return as the dreaded Mugatu is, well, dreadful. He goes over the top from the moment he enters frame and is also unable to recapture any of the magic from the original. Perhaps the one beacon of light struggling to burst out of the hollow black hole is Kyle Mooney’s stint as an apathetic designer that is the one bit of satire that actually works. He perfectly encapsulates the hipster generation, but unfortunately is surrounded by incompetence, over shadowing his sharp wit and solid comedic timing.
Zoolander 2 is chock full of poor decisions from start to finish, even finding a way to ruin something as gratifying as the death of Justin Bieber. This film would have been better off observing its irrelevance and capitalizing on it with the same sharp humor that the original boldly imbued. Instead it slips into obscurity with false bravado and a story that is only skin deep. Moreover, this film is everything that is wrong with society today. It is entitled, whiney, attention starved, and annoying in lieu of being funny. Like so many comedy sequels before it, Zoolander 2 gets lost trying to dazzle, and it abandons the basic ideals that allowed it’s predecessor to gain cult status in the first place. Worst of all the film lost any ounce of charm from the original, and has a hole where it’s heart should be. It’s mean spirited and offensive undertones drag the mood down, as it listlessly chomps at the low hanging fruit. This is spitefully lazy filmmaking and poorly constructed story telling. It’s more sad than funny, and more superficial than the world it callously fails to properly mock. Zoolander 2 is a misguided embarrassment to all those involved, inferior to it’s predecessor in every way. It’s not funny, it’s not entertaining, it’s painful to watch, and in the end it is really, really, really, ridiculously bad.
1.2/5 Not Cool Bro