ZOOLANDER 2 7 out of 10 Directed by Ben Stiller; Written by Justin Theroux, Ben Stiller, Nicholas Stoller and John Hamburg; Starring Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Kristen Wiig, Penelope Cruz and Will Ferrell; Running time 82 minutes; Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content, a scene of exaggerated violence, and brief strong language; In wide release February 12, 2016.
Despite having the worst release date for a comedy of all time (less than a week after the September 11 attacks), the original “Zoolander” has gathered a cult following and found fans among all age groups and demographics. Goofy, fun and enjoyably poking fun at pop culture and the fashion industry, the original was lightning in a bottle and it was doubtful that a sequel could capture that same magic. Thankfully, it is overall enjoyable even if a lot of the jokes fall flat and it loses its way halfway through.
Fifteen years have passed for Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller) and Hansel (Owen Wilson) as well, and time has not been kind to them. Due to Derek’s building the “The Derek Zoolander School for Kids Who Can’t Read Good and Want to Do Other Stuff Good Too” out of the same materials as the model – literally paper mache and glue – the whole thing collapsed, killing his wife and “horrendously” scarring Hansel in the process. His young child was taken away by protective services and Derek retired from fashion to live as a hermit in the wilderness. Billy Zane shows up to deliver his latest Netflix movie (because why not?) and informs Derek that he has been invited to headline a runway show by the biggest name in fashion, Alexanya Atoz (a wonderfully over-the-top Kristen Wiig). Derek eventually agrees in the hope to be reunited with his estranged son and is soon joined by Hansel who was also invited to do the show as well. All is not as it seems as they learn from Valentina (Penelope Cruz) an officer in INTERPOL’s Fashion Police who is investigating the murders of the world’s biggest pop stars. With the fate of the world hanging in the balance, Hansel and Derek must once again put their brain cell together and stop the nefarious schemes of an evil fashion cabal hell-bent on finding the secret of eternal youth.
Going in, I wondered what the need was for a sequel and what new story was so important or funny that it needed telling. And to be honest, there really isn’t much new here. Much of the plot is just a rehash of the first movie, albeit with new characters and a few twists thrown in for good measure. Of course, strong storytelling isn’t the reason we are here. We want laughs and we want them coming fast and heavy, and thankfully most of the movie delivers on that. In fact, the first half is laugh-out-loud funny throughout.
At first, the film delivers a constant barrage of jokes and sight gags that immediately sets the mood for the rest of the story. Stiller and Wilson are the same naïve, men-children they were in the first movie, and that helps fuel a good deal of the comedy. Not to be outdone, Kristen Wiig is also fantastic as she chews through and literally floats on the scenery. But best of all are the countless celebrity cameos that never cease to surprise and bring a laugh. Benedict Cumberbatch and Kiefer Sutherland, especially, are the best moments in the film even if their appearances are way too brief.
Halfway through, however, the movie runs out of steam and begins to drag on as it slowly reaches its climax. The twist is seen coming a mile away, and the humor just bogs down and doesn’t have the same punch as it did for the first 45 minutes. While it picks up again at the end, it still felt like something was missing from the whole experience that the first movie didn’t suffer from.
Needless to say, fans will find plenty to love, and anyone looking for a fluff comedy will have a good time as well. It’s not nearly as smart/dumb as the original, but there’s enough fun stuff to keep everyone entertained and also talking about some key scenes after it lets out. “Zoolander 2” might not be able to pull off “Magnum”, but it gives a great “Blue Steel.”