Movie Review: ‘Zoolander 2’ may be 10 years too late but there’s still a place for it in fans’ hearts
Hey, did you hear that Leonard Maltin walked out of a screening of “Zoolander 2?” Pretty scandalous, huh? I guess you could say that it would reflect poorly on the movie if that critic in question wasn’t Leonard Maltin. But being that it was Maltin, it’s probably the best review the movie could receive. There shouldn’t be a pull quote on the one sheet, just a caricature of Maltin angrily prancing out of the theater with foam filling his mouth as he flips off a dog. It’s an endorsement. “Zoolander 2” didn’t entertain a man who used to be the most needless component on the breathtakingly needless “Entertainment Tonight.” It didn’t bring a smile to the face of a critic whose interest in film rarely extends beyond anything that isn’t somebody tap dancing alongside a cartoon mouse. Maltin couldn’t sit through “Zoolander 2,” which means there’s a strong possibility that anybody who isn’t a simpering, bearded irrelevance could enjoy this movie.
Admittedly, “Zoolander 2” has several strikes against it. It’s completely unnecessary, at least 10 years too late, and so overstuffed with celebrity cameos the third act is rendered into a rushed, half-baked and abrupt affair. But all of these missteps are forgivable because “Zoolander 2” is funny.
Actually, funny might be too strong a word.
Amusing? Affable in a very comforting way? Whatever the case, it’s familiar and unchallenging. Like an “Austin Powers” sequel but where the screenwriters bothered to come up with more than two jokes. Taking place 15 years after the events of the first movie, “Zoolander 2” opens with Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller) and Hansel (Owen Wilson) in self-imposed exile after Derek’s learning institute – the one with the noble mission to encourage children “who can’t read good” to “learn to do other stuff good too” – collapses, leaving Hansel “permanently disfigured”, Derek’s wife (Christine Taylor) dead and his son in the clutches of social services. However, these self-described “hermit crabs” (there’s actually a fair amount of jokes in this that never connect) are dragged out of retirement when notorious good dude Billy Zane arrives on their doorsteps with invitations to appear in the runway show of Don Atari (SNL’s Kyle Mooney), a hipster designer who appears to be the smirking human equivalent to air-quotes. Yet as Derek and Hansel adjust to the very different world around them, a sexy agent from Interpol’s Fashion Police (Penelope Cruz) is trying to determine who is killing off the world’s prettiest people and what, if any, role deranged fashion designer/failed assassin Mugatu (Will Ferrell) plays.
Stiller and co-writer Justin Theroux take aim at one of the biggest, fattest targets in the history of obvious, easy targets and don’t have much to say about it beyond, “Duh-haw! Ain’t fashion dumb?” Additionally, the film’s satirical take on hipsters and the transgendered community seem at least five years out of date and carry that shout-y ‘what-is-this-I-don’t-understand-these-kids-today’ sense of irate confusion that pervaded last year’s “The Green Inferno” and “Tomorrowland.”
What works about “Zoolander 2” is that it’s silly in a fearless way. Containing all of the benefits of a parody movie but none of the drawbacks (e.g. farts aren’t mentioned, Bill Cosby is ignored and nothing is swallowed by Kim Kardashian’s ass). “Zoolander 2” floats along on the surprisingly inexhaustible potential of a universe where fashion isn’t the only thing of importance but the only thing. The world of “Zoolander 2” is a world in which Adam and Eve had a forgotten male modeling companion named Steve, Kirsten Wiig plays a floating, orange-y, Mad Magazine caricature of Donatella Versace and Anna Wintour is part of some ominous secret society where she passively takes part in the ritualistic murder of a small child (which may not be a joke).
Granted, all of this plays like an adaptation of the cold open to any given installment of the MTV Movie Awards and the endless string of celebrity cameos frequently grinds “Zoolander 2” to a halt (whoever it is that keeps telling Katy Perry she’s funny needs to sign a suicide pact with the person who keeps telling Sting he’s still relevant).
“Zoolander 2” is comfort food for “Zoolander” fans. We may not have needed this, but then, another group of fans didn’t need “The Force Awakens” and Maltin managed to stay in his seat during that screening.
Relax America. “Zoolander 2” isn’t as bad as you’ve heard.
Mike Sullivan is a movie reviewer for Weekender. Movie reviews appear weekly in Weekender.
Starring: Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Penelope Cruz, Will Ferrell
Director: Ben Stiller
Weekender Rating: WWW
Length: 102 min.