Stupidity escalates quickly in 'Zoolander 2'


I am torn.

On one hand, I’m a big Zoolander fan, and when I watched it with my brothers, they both seemed to really, really enjoy it. They appreciated its commentary on today’s hipster/millennial culture, how it’s in keeping with the lore and the characters, and how it builds on the kind of humor its predecessor had, but all I saw was a movie retooling old gags, overusing old gimmicks and even downright echoing old lines.

The man who taught me that there's more to life than being really, really, really, ridiculously good-looking.

At the very start the movie reveals via (admittedly entertaining montage) what happens in the 6 year jump from the first movie. Matilda is dead, the school is destroyed, Derek Jr. is taken by child protection services and Derek, having lost everything, has secluded himself from world and has since been living as a hermit crab. Meanwhile, mysterious celebrity deaths are happening around the world. With the authorities’ only lead being the victims’ final messages in the form of a trademark Zoolander selfies, the only person who can make sense of it all is the recluse male supermodel.

One of the most epic character deaths in movies.

Zoolander is dumb as a rock; we already know that, so expect a lot of jokes of this nature. It’s something you need to be into in order to appreciate because to some, stupidity is funny, but to others, stupid is just plain stupid. Sure a few jokes landed and made me laugh my eyeballs out (I appreciated some of the over-the-top moments and random quips and cameos), but for the most part, I was there thinking “how is this funny?”, and worse, “how was this funny back then?!” I don’t know, maybe I just outgrew this brand of humor in the same way that I liked Dumb and Dumber but hated Dumb and Dumber To.

Model Cast
Zoolander 2's MODEL cast. Get it? Model??!

Zoolander 2 was a lot of the old stuff rehashed. I would know, ‘coz I re-watched the first one just last week. Aside from a few (enthusiastically) recycled jokes, a lot of the major beats of the film were also re-used to saturating lengths. The puddle ponder scene, the half man, half animal commercial, the enthusiasm over a favorite dessert, Mugatu and his assistant’s ambiguous love affair, the hot female character who ends up the love interest and turns out was a former model herself, the orgy – these were only SOME of the elements repeated from the first movie that didn’t seem to have much function aside from gratuity.

The Zoolander formula is blatantly apparent.

Even the cameos, which are traditionally Zoolander, wore itself out and gradually lost its premium. At the beginning I went “OH COOL, THEY GOT (insert celebrity here) TO DO THIS!” but by the end, I was like “Oh, (insert another celebrity here), that’s nice.” The Kiefer Sutherland one though, I gotta say, he was one of the better cameos in the movie.

Some would argue that it was all homage to the original, and that it modernizes those old elements, just like what Star Wars The Force Awakens did, but there are three major differences between the two, 1) the original Star Wars was released IN THE SEVENTIES, 2) Zoolander is a comedy, and jokes have a tendency to wane in repetition, and 3) there was just too much of it. A few references or Easter eggs here and there would have been cool, but at some point you start to feel like this is basically the same film.

I know I've said some things, but Hansel is so hot right now.

It’s for those same reasons that I didn’t mind the film’s more thematic parallels. They weren’t just one off and superficial. Derek and Hansel’s search for self-actualization and the satire of a relevant contemporary culture (e.g. the very disparaging millennial crowd) are what gives Zoolander 2 its subtler value.

Questionable jokes aside, Stiller and Wilson's still got it!

What’s glaringly different about Zoolander 2 though is how it’s fully embraced the absurdity. It is ridiculous – and not in the good, slang for cool, way, but in the actual what-on-earth-is-going-on-here way. In the first film, an evil fashion designer secretly uses male models to assassinate world leaders to preserve their control over their international supply chain. Ridiculous? Yes, very. Plausible? Probably not, but at least, with a little suspension of disbelieve, okay, it's a huge stretch, but maaaaaybe it could happen. But in the sequel, they’re not pulling any punches. There’s a literal fashion Interpol, where former models becoming super spies are apparently a thing, women can swim faster than a helicopter can fly, the first humans were Adam, Eve and Steve, the first male supermodel whose direct descendant’s heart can grant eternal youth to whoever consumes it. Ridiculous? VERY, VERY MUCH SO. It’s a drastically different tone than the original but to the film’s credit, it knows this and it’s very comfortable in what it’s trying to do. But personally, part of why I enjoyed the first film was that it was still somehow grounded to the fashion world, and that it was less of a leap to accept its more fantastical components.

By the end of it though, all the surrealism and multiple characters arcs all come together in a very comprehensive, revelatory and satisfying way. Some of the best moments were in that final act (meaning the ones I didn’t already see in the film’s spoiler-y trailers), and a particular narrative twist makes sense of a lot of the things I previously thought were weak plot devices. Zoolander 2’s redeeming quality is how it ultimately subverts what I was conditioned to expect from it.

Mugatu 2
Movie ramps up the second Mugatu is back in the fold!

There could have been a number of reasons why I didn’t enjoy the movie as much as my brothers did. It may have been the showy trailers, or I may have overstuffed myself with Zoolander humor, or my taste in comedy has matured, or other expectations tainted my experience of the film…

duo 2
I don't mind a third installment, but, just like trendy hairstyles, Zoolander has to be fresh.

…Or maybe it was just bad and I should stop being Zoolander 2’s apologist. Due to Stiller and Owen’s comedic prowess and unwavering chemistry and the film’s better and more exciting second half to finale, Zoolander 2 was acceptably entertaining. But it’s frustrating that it had to take such a long time to get there. The flat jokes, excessive throwbacks, and general lack of originality reduce Zoolander 2 to a fun but pointless and inevitably forgettable reunion.


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