A film has failed as a comedy if all you can hear from the audience is mild sporadic chuckling. Such was the case with Zoolander no. 2.
This movie was poorly written, the humor was cheap and the direction was very over the top. But these are the things one expects from Zoolander no. 2. In fact, this sort of crass humor and cartoonish plot is what made the original one of the most iconic cult comedy films of the millennium. Oddly enough, this same overplay which made the original so appealing is what kills the sequel. In the original, the extravagance was innovative and charming; in the sequel, it seems dated and unoriginal.
The original Zoolander was enjoyable because of its ingenuity. It was a snarky social commentary on the snobby nature of the fashion world. The sequel was just a cheap tactic to cash in on the original’s success and make a quick buck. Ben Stiller has proven in the past that he is actually a very talented director and writer with films like Tropic Thunder and Zoolander. Sadly, Zoolander no. 2 falls short on the original’s legacy and delegitimizes Stiller’s reputation as an intelligent satirist.
Stiller is not the only talent gone to waste in this film. Owen Wilson’s character, Hansel McDonald, is continuously treated as an after-thought. His presence brings nothing to the film. Penelope Cruz, Oscar winning actor (and possible Goddess), is made into nothing but a hyper-sexualized prop. The irony is that her character is originally introduced in the film as a badass action heroine, but is later reduced to Derrick Zoolander’s hot sidekick. There is one scene in which she utilizes her secret agent skillset and displays her talents as a long distance swimmer, but this is merely a ploy for the writers to make a couple boob jokes. This film led me to hypothesize that if Penelope Cruz is in a movie, and her character swims, and is in search for the fountain of youth, and the film happens to be a sequel, then this movie will suck.
Will Ferrell still charms as the villainous Jacobim Mugatu, a role that is appropriately catty and flamboyant. Mugato is complimented perfectly by the stoic Alexanya Atoz, played by Kristen Wiig with an unidentifiable accent. Ferrell and Wiig, alongside Anna Wintour’s dry humor, are the only redeeming factors of this film and are sadly not given enough screen time. Mugatu doesn’t even appear until two-thirds of the film is complete.
Instead, the plot (if one could call it that) of this film focuses on protecting the chosen one, an embodiment of the fountain of youth. There is also an interwoven subplot of Zoolander’s relationship with his fat son who was taken away from him by child services (for good reason). This scenario exists for an abundance of fat jokes. In addition to fat shaming, this film also introduces an agender character named All (surprisingly portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch) for the sole purpose of being the butt of a few transgender-aimed zingers. The original film wasn’t exactly PC either, but that was 2001. Considering the progress society has made in the last 15 years, it feels tacky to have to steep to this kind of low humor.
The magic that worked in the original is missing in the sequel. Despite pinching our nerves, the Derrick Zoolander of the original film eventually managed to steal the hearts of anyone who watched the film and had legions of followers practicing their best blue steel in the mirror. With the sequel, he is just plain insufferable. All Stiller has accomplished with this film is tarnishing the legacy of the original. He should have taken Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s advice to relax and not do it, when he wanted to go do it. I highly suggest you avoid this one. Instead, I recommend you sit back at home, enjoy your foamy latte, watch the original and pretend as though the sequel never happened. Ben Stiller is probably at home wishing the same.