It’s hard to sit through a bad movie. It’s especially hard to sit through a bad movie that you were fully expecting to enjoy. Sadly, “Zoolander 2” is one of those films: a comedy sequel devoid of any originality, taste, or humor.
Ben Stiller, who directed “Zoolander” in 2001, returns to the director’s chair for this sequel, as well as reprises his role as Derek Zoolander, the world’s most beautiful model. Or at least, he used to be. As a series of news clips inform us, Derek has gone into hiding, after a building he designed collapsed on his wife, and he was caught borderline abusing his young son while trying to figure out how to make spaghetti. His partner in crime Hansel, whose face was disfigured in that same building collapse, ruining his career, has also disappeared. They are lured back into the open by Valentina Valencia (Penelope Cruz), an agent for the fashion division of Interpol (basically, the Fashion Police), who needs Derek to help them find whoever is killing the world’s most beautiful celebrities, all of whom took selfies sporting Derek’s signature look just prior to their death.
If it sounds stupid—well, it is. There is some potential in it, but the story meanders between Derek trying to reconnect with his son, Hansel’s daddy issues, and a plot involving the “chosen one” of the fashion world. Or something. Part of the problem is that Derek is so mind-numbingly stupid and selfish, it’s impossible to care what happens to him. He changes a little bit by the end of the film, but just barely. There really aren’t any legitimately good laughs in the film. The attempts at humor range from silly one-liners to physical comedy, and it’s all the same old same old, but overdone to the point where it’s painful to watch. Instead of rapid fire, funny dialogue, there’s an overly long pause after the actors deliver many of their lines, as if to tell the audience, “Oh hey, you should laugh here.” There are many times when people get hit in the face with objects—a lot. There’s a sequence in which Derek wrecks his car while driving and taking selfies with his son, the car flipping over and over and over before finally stopping, Derek simply saying, “Hashtag oops.” There is a lot of parodying the current state of pop culture and social media, things that weren’t around when the first “Zoolander” came out, but most of it is so unfunny it just further proves how out of touch these characters are with the modern world (admittedly, the bit at the beginning of the film where Justin Bieber spends his precious final seconds of life trying to find just the right Instagram filter for his dying selfie made me chuckle).
Will Ferrell, who returns as the villain Mugatu, and Kristen Wiig, who plays the hard to understand and ridiculously dressed fashion queen Alexanya Atoz, get the most laughs in the movie, and have the most memorable roles, even if by the finale Ferrell has worn out his welcome. There are a ton of celebrity cameos in this movie. Sadly, a lot of them are wasted, but there are also a lot of them that are amusing, mainly because the celebrity in question is cast against type. We see the normally poised and dramatic Benedict Cumberbatch playing a goth drag queen. We see action star Kiefer Sutherland play an almost motherly member of Hansel’s orgy. Sting’s role is a lot of fun, and it’s also great to see Neil deGrasse Tyson being, well, awesome. And most people will relish the purposely lengthy amount of machine gun fire pumped into Justin Bieber in the film’s opening sequence. The list of celebrities appearing in the film goes on and on, to the point where pretty much the only fun thing about watching the movie is trying to spot all the cameos.
“Zoolander 2” might have been a successful movie had it been made a few years after the first film. But fifteen years is too long, and whatever aspects of the first movie that helped make it a cult success don’t really work here. Instead of deriding the fashion industry, as the first film seemed to do, this movie, while it does poke fun at it, almost celebrates the superficial celebrity world. It’s a comedy that is more annoying than funny; annoying not just for its lame story and characters, but also annoying because a film with this level of talent involving both on and off screen should be so, so much better.
Runtime: 102 minutes. Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content, a scene of exaggerated violence, and brief strong language.
Check out showtimes for this movie and more at the following St. Louis-area theaters:
- Wehrenberg Theatres
- AMC Theatres
- Regal Movie Theatres
- Galleria 6
- Chase Park Plaza
- Moolah Theatre
- Hi-Pointe Theatre
- St. Andrews Cinema
- Plaza Frontenac Cinema
- Tivoli Theatre