Well isn’t this the main contender for biggest disappointment of the year?
The answer is yes it is.
Let’s be Frank, Zoolander 2 is not a very good film, in fact it’s worse than not good. It’s bad. It’s lazy. It’s not funny. But hey that’s one guy’s opinion.
Sadly though I’ve been a long-time Zoolander fan since the film first arrived on DVD back in 2001. It felt playful, a loving satire with a bit of spike that revelled in whimsical one liners and ridiculous Manchurian Candidate style plot. At the time I had no idea who Will Ferrell was, his maniacal fashion designer Mugatu was a stroke of brilliance. Ben Stiller had created a lovably goof who had some heart to him.
All of this seems to be missing with Zoolander 2. The opening scene showing the death of Justin Bieber feels as though Stiller and the writers wrote that scene out of sheer macabre pleasure and then thought “okay now how can we tie a film around this”. You know because we all hate Justin Bieber and the site of him being gun-downed is hiiiiiiiilllllaaarrrious. It would be funnier if he wasn’t in on the joke. And that’s the main problem with this belated sequel. Everyone seems in on the joke this time. The support cast is littered with cameos from Kiefer Sutherland to Ariana Grande, Susan Sarandon to Katy Perry to Neil deGrasse Tyson. Sting arrives to fill in the rock star quota filled by Blessed Bowie in the first film. Yes the first film had a whole bunch of cameos but their appearances aided the sense of a ridiculously decadent world they lived in and wanted to pay a knowing wink. This time it just seems like Stiller’s friends called him and said they really wanted to mug and do their own Blue Steel on camera. When the likes of Tommy Hilfiger, Marc Jacobs and Valentino turn up playing themselves it is horrendously clear that their not in the same room with anyone else, squeezing 30 mins filming time into their schedule. The pause between their lines is so pronounced you can practically hear Stiller feeding them lines off camera. Some people in the audience I saw it with thought it was hilarious every time Ferrell spoke to them using their full name “shut up Marc Jacobs”, “silence Tommy Hilfiger”. These folk seem easily pleased. I wish I could be one of them.
Then there’s the plot. Again, the first films was hugely silly with Zoolander being brainwashed in order to kill the Malaysian Prime Minister because of his stance on slave labour forcing up the prices of manufacture. This time the plot involves some DaVinci Code-esque nonsense about “a chosen one” that Will Ferrell’s Mugatu seems intent on destroying. Technically that’s a spoiler but the TV ads are quite happy to give that away by getting a cheap laugh from him saying “Really? You want to know why I killed Justin Bieber”, that’s right it’s actually supposed to be a mystery for a bit. It’s one of those classic. The sequel needs to be bigger and stupider plot lines that’s so silly it’s just lame. Laughs are attempted to be mined from showing a cabal of fashion designers chanting in cloaks (which does give a nice nod to Ernest Borgnine in The Devil’s Rain) but by then you won’t care.
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why but the sparkle has gone from Zoolander this time round. Stiller plays him pretty much the same but seems to take the characters years of self imposed exile to heart. There’s a lifeless quality to the performance. Owen Wilson is back as Hansel of course. Owen Wilson still does a lot of whispering which personally I find massively irritating, so I always liked the first in spite of him. This time though my annoyance was allowed to flow. Penelope Cruz is just your standard, clichéd beautiful woman who is there for scenery. Whatever nonsense there is in the press about her being a great foil for the pair is instantly swept away as she’s shown to be bad as an Interpol agent and only able to bring anything to the table when she strips down to her underwear.
Will Ferrell, once more, proves to be the films saving grace. Mugatu is still one of his funniest big screen creations and after the recent spate of average movies it’s good to see him sink his teeth into a character again. Kristin Wiig is the only notable new character worth a smirk. Her grotesquely over the top fashion designer is a perverted delight despite it’s broadness. So yeah two good things there. Elsewhere old jokes from the first film a re-hashed. Several new jokes are continuously rehashed in the film itself like Hansel and his wife called “Orgy” which is in fact a “funnily” disparate group of stereotypes and Kiefer Sutherland.
Stiller and co attempt to show how old hat Zoolander and Hansel are in todays fashion world, resplendent in long beards, baggy pastel shirts and Instagram but if anything it dates the film itself. Old jokes about the size of mobiles and people using dialogue that the middle aged men who wrote this thinks sounds modern (i.e.. stupid sounding). Since the first film came out and the this wonderful internet thing people are much more in step with the constant changes in the fashion world, the jokes on show here already feel dated as hell. There’s even a Susan Boyle cameo, because you know she’s forever in the public conscious!!.
Forgive the slightly ranty nature of this review but like Garry Shandling sat at the runway in the first Zoolander, both my thumbs were up and wanting to wish the film well. Instead a fifteen year wait has produced a tired and uninspired mess of a movie. It’s not often that I want to leave a screening but if I didn’t know the end was in sight I could have skipped the final ten minutes.
1 / 5
Dir: Ben Stiller
Scr: Justin Theroux, Ben Stiller, Nicholas Stuller, John Hamburg
Cast: Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Penelope Cruz, Will Ferrell, Kristin Wiig, Sting, Billy Zane, Kiefer Sutherland
Prd: Stuart Cornfeld, Matt Eppedio, Scott Rudin, Ben Stiller, Clayton Townsend
DOP: Daniel Mindel
Music: Theodore Shapiro
Run time: 102 mins
Zoolander 2 is available on Blu-Ray and DVD now.