By Adam Ray Palmer
A famous model in a cult film once said “I’m pretty sure there’s a lot more to life than being really, really, ridiculously good-looking” – clearly regarding the Zoolander series; there isn’t.
Ben Stiller (also on directing duties) and his pal Owen Wilson return as the hapless duo Derek Zoolander and Hansel McDonald to take on the fashion world once again.
It has been the best part of two decades since we last saw the ‘frenemies’ on screen. They return off the back of a cult classic comedy that forced its way into our hearts, but will we let the sequel do the same?
After 15 years out of the game, Derek and Hansel are lured into the modelling industry once again. Their travels take them to Rome where they find themselves the target of a sinister conspiracy.
The film begins with a brief catch up so we are up to speed with the last 15 years. This short sequence is a cleverly put together news montage and eases us in to the next 90 minutes. The problem is that the next hour and an half just derails the whole Zoolander legacy.
Let me cut to the chase, I have three major concerns with this picture and all of them are hefty negatives. Firstly, the gags in the 90 minute-feature are way too forced. The jokes are too few and far between let alone the amount of them that play on the passage of time between the two films. The original 2001 comedy had jokes that didn’t connect every time but every now and then, classic lines would be delivered. With this edition, the jokes just never get going. My second problem is the narrative structure, and in fact the plot as a whole. The linear format is normal for a straight-forward comedy; however, Zoolander 2 just seems to follow a sketch-to-sketch framework which will destroy viewers’ attention span. There isn’t enough substance to grab onto.
Yet, even with the two negatives above stated, I still have an even bigger gripe. The main irritating issue is that the film has become too self-conscious. The beauty of the first movie was that it had no audience to impress and it didn’t take itself too seriously. This time, it feels the need to build on the cult hero of a first instalment but it was never going to topple it. Zoolander 2 just needed continue that insecurity style of comedy like the first one did so well, but instead we have this awkward, bothersome mess that perhaps shouldn’t have been commissioned if this was going to be the outcome.
The film just tries to pick fun with how the youthful trends and technology have moved on too often. The irony is that the first instalment benefitted from the present day’s social media like YouTube, Vine and memes/gifs. The movie would have been much better if it still had the same Derek and Hansel sticking by their generation but still trying to crack the big time in 2016. In reality, it just swipes at the modern world that has actually enabled them to get this sequel.
I think there are a few positives mainly in the form of Kristen Wiig’s new character, the henchwoman of the movie. Her Russian/out of this world accent is hilarious as she struggles to articulate her words due to a plastic surgeon’s work. The inclusion of Penelope Cruz on the casting bill is an interesting one though. She offers next to nothing to script but her stunning beauty - she is literally written into this film as a sex object for Derek. On the flipside, I did enjoy all the cameos because you had no idea who would pop up next.
In a nutshell, I would probably give this film a miss - just don’t do it to your 2001 self. Get the original out and have a ball. Let’s all pray they leave this alone now.
Cineroom’s Rating: 1 Star
Zoolander 2 is currently showing worldwide in selected cinemas – certificate 15