Tuesday’s Reviews – Zoolander No.2 (2016)

Ben Stiller, films, Kristen Wiig, meh, Owen Wilson, review, sequel, Will Ferrell

Any film that has such a huge fan base is rife for sequels that come along way after anyone really wanted on. We saw it with Anchorman 2 and now Zoolander 2. Although, I get it; it’s George Lucas syndrome. Something happens when you make something that people love and you’re really proud of. You cant leave it alone and want to carry on making something that so many people love. The problem is, people love it too much and will never be able to compare it to the original they’ve shrouded in so much nostalgia. I guess I shouldn’t complain too much because Derek and Hansel are both fantastic characters. Of course, I will complain because when the time away has been so long it’s difficult to pick up where you left off.

Which, incidentally, is exactly what Ben Stiller tries to do. Zoolander 2 picks up right after the end of the first film with the revelation that “The Derek Zoolander Center for Kids Who Can’t Read Good and Who Wanna Learn to Do Other Stuff Good Too” collapsed killing Derek’s wife, Matilda, and disfiguring Hansel. In light of this tragedy, both models retire from fashion and go into hiding. Along the way, Derek loses custody of his son and become a recluse and Hansel finds a family with his desert orgy. Obviously, that’s all about to change when the pair are drawn out of retirement to star in an up-and-coming designer’s new show in Italy. Turns out, Derek and Hansel no longer fit into the fashion world and are ridiculed as relics during the show.

Whilst in Rome they are brought on board in a current Interpol investigation concerning the mysterious deaths of a bunch of pop stars. In exchange for information on Derek’s estranged son, he agrees to hep agent of the fashion division, Valentina (Penélope Cruz). They trio then find themselves in a ridiculous Da Vinci Code style mystery that places Derek Jr. (Cyrus Arnold) in danger and takes them into the seedy part of the fashion world and reintroduces them to Derek’s old nemesis, Mugatu. They also take some time along the way to ponder who they really are in a world of social media, transgender, and paternal responsibility.

Zoolander 2 tries so hard to remind its audience about the success of the original and, for that, we should applaud it. Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson are as comfortable in their roles as they were back in 2001 and they are still incredibly funny. Derek and Hansel have moved on emotionally since the events following the first film but are still as vain and self-centred as they always were. Which is basically all we really wanted. The pair still work really well together and the chemistry is just as wonderful as it was the first time round.

Although, the film is constantly being haunted by its predecessor. For the most part, the references to Zoolander do what they need to and create enough humour to keep people happy. However, there are scenes which are so reminiscent to ones in the original that it ceases to be a call-back and just comes across as desperate. At times it feels as though Stiller and co just hope to create humour by reintroducing characters that their audience know once did/said something funny.

There was a lot of potential to bring Derek and Hansel into this modern world. They were basically the social media kings before social media even existed. However, the element of the narrative relating to where they fit in is quickly swept aside for the next dozen wacky plot strands. I know the plot of the first film isn’t a fucking Shakespeare play but this is essentially just a bunch of sketches tied together using celebrity cameos and a flimsy overall story. Much of it just seems unnecessary and not funny enough.

Still, I didn’t hate this film. When it gets things right those things are really right. There are some genuinely funny moments and some great situations. I don’t know who suggested the Kiefer Sutherland idea but it’s one of the best things about the film. Likewise, the brief Susan Boyle cameo is fucking amazing. However, between those pieces of gold you have to wade through the shit like Katy Perry and Neil DeGrasse Tyson popping up just because they’re famous people. It doesn’t make sense.

Rather than having a well constructed sequel to a film that so many people love, we have something that feels rushed and relies too heavily on big names. I know the first one threw celebrities into the ring willy nilly but at least that left some room for characters to develop. It feels like everyone was just too busy to be involved here. Kristen Wiig and Will Ferrell just aren’t used enough for my liking and their characters are wasted. Considering how important the pair were to the marketing of the film they added fuck all to it. Zoolander 2 is exactly like the main characters it portrays; it’s not very smart or polished and it’s far too narcissistic for its own good but you can’t help but like it. There is something so charming and fun about it that you won’t regret seeing it but it doesn’t have the staying power of the original. The script isn’t as quotable and the story verges even further into outrageously nonsensical territory.

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