Directed: Ben Stiller
Starring: Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Penelope Cruz, Will Ferrell
When Ben Stiller’s Zoolander hit cinemas back in 2001 the world was still in shock over 9/11, but over time the film has become a comedy favourite due to the biting satire of the world of high fashion and the hilarious performances from Stiller, Owen Wilson and the ever-hilarious Will Ferrell.
Cut to 15 years later and the world is a very different place, and Zoolander 2 at least has the sense to acknowledge this, making it one of the main themes. In order for the sequel to move forward, the opening montage informs us that the happy ending we saw at the end of the original didn’t last and that Zoolander has become a “hermit crab” after his Centre For Kids Who Can’t Read Good and Want to Learn to do Other Stuff Good Too collapses, killing his wife and scarring Hansel (Owen Wilson), as well as losing his son.
Comedy sequels are notoriously hard to pull off – they usually either end up being a retread of the original, or they go way over the top. Zoolander 2 falls into the latter category, which isn’t great considering the original was already pretty out there. With 15 years between the films it really begs the question – was this film necessary? Sure the fans might have wanted it, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea (hence why there should never be a Friends reboot). It feels much like the same situation that arose with the Anchorman sequel – the original is so beloved that unattainable expectations were never going to be met.
Another reason I don’t understand why this sequel has come about is the character of Zoolander himself. The guy literally has no personality beyond being dumb beyond belief, and it’s funny to an extent, but it’s lucky that he managed to carry one film, so why bring him back for another? Why couldn’t the guy just have that happy ending that we all saw at the end of the first movie? It’s not like there’s any character development on display here.
But, anyway, as unnecessary as it may be the film does exist, and unfortunately it can’t claim to be much more than mediocre. Sure, it raises a few laughs, but the extremely talented cast are wasted on average material – Kristen Wiig in particular, who’s weird accent is meant to be funny but never quite lands.
The whole point of Zoolander was to lampoon the fashion industry, but it feels here like the script is going for anything but the fashion industry. Hipsters? They get it pretty bad. Celebrities? The film opens with Justin Bieber being riddled with bullets. But the fashion industry? Not so much. The original film was so biting in its satire – think the bulimia jokes – and everything we see here is just a pale imitation.
When you have so many cameos from members of the fashion industry you’ve probably lost your bite, and that’s what has happened here. Speaking of the cameos, they deserve a whole section dedicated to them alone. Anyone who finds the plot insufferable could make a game out of celebrity spotting – they don’t all work, but some of them do raise a laugh, such as Willie Nelson (!?) and Keifer Sutherland.
Zoolander 2 feels like a frantic attempt to emulate everything that made the original so funny, but ultimately it doesn’t have the bite and, whilst far from being unwatchable, these are characters that were probably best left in 2001.