Nostalgia and movie sequelitis are the two main ingredients that invite back the majority of films from yesteryear looking to make a big screen impact yet again. This, of course, applies to both cinematic gems and duds alike. Nowadays, the urge to tap into celebrated or soured fare from yesterday has proven to be a continued goldmine for the Hollywood machine. As an example, the recent emergence of the legendary “Star Wars” universe was jump started by the highly anticipated release of 2015’s “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” Unfortunately, this equally applies to the not-so-welcomed stiffs that dare to rear their ineffective hazy heads for another go-around. Well what certainly comes to mind as a viable example of this sentiment is the insufferable Ben Stiller vanity piece Zoolander 2.
In 2001, Stiller’s original “Zoolander” made its way onto the big screen without much fanfare other than inducing some selected chuckles from those less discriminating moviegoers that felt it necessary to marvel at the lame inside jokes pertaining to vain “beautiful people” in a landscape of undesirables. Although gloriously insipid, “Zoolander” did have its share of off-kilter moments laced with naughty-minded gags and goofs to convey its tepid satire. Now the question remains: Why after fifteen years does the equally fetid and foolish Zoolander 2 need to make its mark in today’s celluloid climate? Was there anyone seriously clamoring for the further misadventures of knuckle-headed narcissist Derek Zoolander? Apparently Stiller thinks so not to mention the exclusive crowd that misses the overstayed and outdated wackiness of Mike Myers’s shagging spy Austin Powers.
Predictably, star/director/co-writer/co-producer Stiller and his handlers have no real outlandishly solid story outside of patching together a series of recycled funny bits, excessive playful mugging for the camera, promoting an embarrassment of riches with various wasted cameos, and interjecting pedestrian punchlines and flimsy plotting. Simply put Zoolander 2 beats its tedious gimmick to death to the point of no return. Stiller’s Derek Zoolander is self-absorbed, shallow and has all the cerebral capacity of a dime store pet rock. Naturally Stiller has absurd fun portraying this overdressed, walking ham sandwich. However, the one-trick gimmick of so-called pretty boy Zoolander and his fellow mirror-loving minions quickly loses its loony charm and borders on eye-rolling boredom. Forced in unfunny and monotonous mockery, Zoolander 2 has all the comedic grace of a slippery runway being paraded on by high heel-wearing anorexic models.
Stiller and his crew of co-writers in John Hamburg, Nicholas Stoller and Justin Theroux seem to think that the notoriously dim-witted Zoolander (Stiller, “The Watch”) is an uproarious tool particularly to the outsiders that dare to point out what a vapid dunce he is in reality. What fun or challenge is it in witnessing clueless commentators verbally assaulting the idiotic Zoolander? For instance, is there any amusement in a burglar telling a bank robber what a lowlife he really is at heart? The slew of tasteless sequences are not even worth exploring in detail. The tiresome antics of the squinting Derek Zoolander and his off-and-on sidekick Hansel (Owen Wilson, “Inherent Vice”) as saviors of the persecuted attractive masses has its limited hilarity until the novelty wears thin as the movie feebly persists.
The movie’s mantra (besides its farcical ode to worshiping the beautiful ones) suggests that hedonistic hotties such as fashion models and rock stars are not all that different from one another. After all, they are a special breed onto themselves that are envied and celebrated by countless fanatics everywhere. The running gag that is routinely employed in Zoolander 2 features pop megastar Justin Bieber (way to go in ensuring that the “Bieleber brigade” of adoring babes will blindly march to the box office) being hunted down by a motorist assassin in the streets of Rome. Before Bieber expires on the spot (not to worry as the maligned music superstar will continue popping up throughout the movie) in a hail of gunfire he makes a facial gesture to his avid followers that suggests a respectful nod to the one and only iconic Fashionable One, Derek Zoolander.
Enter Interpol Fashions Crime-buster Valentina Valencia (Penélope Cruz, “To Rome with Love”). Valentina is tasked with solving the mystery behind the evil forces that want to eradicate the alluring Bieber and other highly cherished pop stars around the world. Hence, it would be in Valentina’s best interest to recruit misguided fashion relic Zoolander to crack down on the sinister ones that threaten to harm the hair of the pretty prestigious population. The problem remains that Derek has been out of circulation following the accidental death of his wife Matilda (Christine Taylor, “License to Wed”) and now hides in seclusion in northern New Jersey. Hard times have fallen on the buffoonish Zoolander including the mission to get back his estranged son Derek Jr. (Cyrus Arnold) who is quick to remind how oafish his father is instinctively.
Zoolander and foe/friend/foe Hansel (whose retreat to a desert-driven Malibu is bizarrely recalled) are now located in Rome and is on assignment for designer Alexanya Atoz (Kristen Wiig, “Welcome to Me”) as they accept a much-needed modeling gig to get them away from rusting on the sidelines. When Zoolander is not clumsily trying to seduce his IFC contact Valentina (yes, she thinks that Derek is a dim light bulb) he and Hansel have their problems with androgynous male model All (Benedict Cumberbatch, “The Imitation Game”) as he is a natural thorn-in-the-side for the strutting twosome. Of course nothing presents more of a dangerous disaster when Derek Zoolander faces off against his chief nemesis in the evil-minded Mugatu (Will Ferrell, “Get Hard”).
Clearly, Zoolander 2 strains for its banal irreverence but this whole put-on is a complete mess as it basks in its asinine brand of manufactured slapstick. Stiller’s dressy doofus routine registers with immense indifference and the constant posing and puckering becomes wearisome even though it is supposed to be the rib-tickling trademark of his pompous persona. Actually, Wilson’s Hansel is more appetizing and authentically offbeat and serves as a welcomed contrast to Stiller’s styling nincompoop. Ferrell, in true form, goes way over the top as the sinister sideshow Mugatu. It is a toss up as to who is more insufferable and attention-getting concerning Stiller’s Zoolander versus Ferrell’s Mugatu. The throwaway cameos being tossed about are just shameless appearances for the sake in being convenient filler to an otherwise staged saggy satire.
Zoolander 2, much like the Nehru jacket and clog shoes, is a freakish fashion statement that should be buried in the past permanently.