Opening this weekend:
Zoolander 2—As targets of urgently needed satire go, male models don’t seem all that high on the list just now. Nonetheless, Ben Stiller has made a sequel to his 2001 Zoolander, and it’s funnier than the original.
At least, I think it is. I can’t really remember. It’s been a freakin’ decade and a half, after all, since the original came out, and I’ve never felt any pressing need to see it again. But I dimly remember getting a chuckle or two out of it, and I got maybe four or five solid chuckles out of this very silly, very belated follow-up. So I’d say it’s funnier than the original, at least a little bit. You know, just in case Paramount might want to quote me and mention this blog in some high-profile print ads.
Craggy-faced, blank-eyed, dull-witted runway model Derek Zoolander (Stiller) has been in isolation for years as a “hermit crab” in a cabin in “Extreme Northern New Jersey,” after having suffered a tragedy and having his son taken away from him. One day he is mysteriously offered a modeling gig at a show in Rome, and soon is asked to assist in an Interpol investigation into the murders of beautiful celebrities—the film opens with such a killing (it’s also in the TV ads) which elicited hearty applause from the screening audience with whom I saw it.
Derek and his old rival/pal Hansel (Owen Wilson at his most relaxed and enjoyable) follow the Interpol investigator (ridiculously stunning Penelope Cruz) into an intrigue combining elements of James Bond and Silence of the Lambs with a sort of Da Vinci Code backstory. Eventually the villainous Mugatu (Will Ferrell) enters the story as well.
Don’t get me wrong—I’m not suggesting that Zoolander 2 is the laugh-riot of 2016. It’s imbecilic. But it’s so doggedly, insistently imbecilic that from time to time it breaks down your defenses and you start to giggle. Or I did, at least. It has some good revue-sketch performances, too, notably by Kyle Mooney as noxiously hyper-ironic designer “Don Atari.”
The movie also has a staggering number of celebrity cameos, ranging from Ariane Grande to Neil deGrasse Tyson, some barely glimpsed, others in surprisingly juicy roles. In the sheer volume of this sort of glitz, Zoolander 2 is reminiscent of a Muppet movie. But Derek’s face isn’t nearly as expressive as Kermit’s.