Zoolander 2 (Ben Stiller, 2016)
It seems that good American comedies are hard to come by these days. In the last year, with the exception of a few female-driven vehicles (Spy, Trainwreck, Sisters), big screen comedies tend to rely on gross-out humour, are offensive, or just aren’t that funny. But every now and then you’ll find a gem. The original Zoolander (2001) remains to this day one of my favourite comedies. With an outrageous premise (a male model is brainwashed to assassinate the President of Malaysia) the film remains quote-worthy to this day (“What is this? A centre for ants?”). While fans of that movie were excited about its sequel, trepidation abounded – could it possibly be as good as the first one?
It’s been fifteen years since Zoolander first pouted his lips, and you can hardly accuse Ben Stiller and his posse of a lazy cash grab when they’ve clearly had time to think its sequel through and deliver the best possible end product. The premise of Zoolander 2 is just as wonderfully silly as its predecessor – ridiculously good looking people are being murdered, and they are all linked to Derek Zoolander (Stiller) and his trademark ‘Blue Steel’. Out of the game for several years, Zoolander and fellow male model/best friend Hansel (Owen Wilson) return with the mission of infiltrating the world of high fashion. It gets even more ridiculous from there, with Derek’s son (Cyrus Arnold) playing a pivotal role.
While having multiple screenwriters can often result in the effect of too many cooks spoiling the broth, Zoolander 2’s foursome of writers have delivered a highly entertaining and well-paced script. Led by Justin Theroux (Tropic Thunder), the talents of Stiller (Zoolander, Tropic Thunder), Nicholas Stoller (The Muppets, The Five Year Engagement), and John Hamburg (Zoolander, Meet the Parents and its sequels) are put to good use, in one of the most consistently funny scripts in some time. They don’t fall into the trap of bland unfunny filler between jokes (see Seth MacFarlane’s film attempts) nor do they spend too long on a joke. They don’t hide behind gross out humour, and for the most part they avoid offensive stereotypes. Though there are a few questionable moments (Benedict Cumberbatch’s trans character the most obvious one), the real joke is always at the expense of the male models; they are stupid, shallow men. The only group likely to take offense to this is that of real male models… if they even get it.
The main cast are a hoot. Stiller and Wilson pick straight up where they left off – they don’t seem to have aged a day – and play off each other as well as they always have. Kristen Wiig is unrecognisable as Alexanya Atoz – a plastic fantastic concoction of all that is wrong with the fashion industry, while Will Ferrell delights as the psychopathic Mugatu. Penelope Cruz as the head of Interpol’s fashion division is clearly just there to look hot, but she manages to entertain at the same time. Glorious cameos abound (and not the fake ones currently listed on the film’s imdb page) and it’s heartening to see even fashion bigwigs willing to make fun of themselves.
So is it as good as the first one? Yes, but of course it doesn’t have the same novelty factor and for this reason many would probably disagree. It’s highly derivative but in the best possible way. This is no recycled disappointment like The Hangover 2. This is Ben Stiller’s return to form (in his triple role as director, co-writer and star) and it is undeniably hilarious. Zoolander is definitely still in vogue.
This review was first published at Filmblerg.com