ZOOLANDER NO. 2 (Paramount)
Dir. Ben Stiller, Script. John Hamburg, Ben Stiller, Nick Stoller & Justin Theroux
Cast: Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Will Ferrell, Penelope Cruz, Kristen Wiig
Plot: Retired models Derek Zoolander (Stiller) and Hansel (Wilson) are brought in to solve a series of mysterious assassinations they are linked with.
With fifteen years separating the sequel from the original, it could be definitely understood if Zoolander 2 didn’t quite have the fire of its cult-classic predecessor. The return of the world’s dumbest models is at least ten years too late; instead of being a welcome revisiting of one of Ben Stiller’s most-loved characters, Zoolander 2 feels like a Frat Pack movie sure, but one that hasn’t evolved. The film seems very outmoded, and while some jokes definitely land, Zoolander 2 lacks the quotable lines its predecessor had in abundance.
Ben Stiller returns to direct this sequel, and while he’s filled it with throwbacks to the first Zoolander, he’s fallen into the trap of failing to take the sequel forward. The film features visuals straight out of 2001 for the most part, without exploring the new places that updated camera technology could have taken the movie – its altogether uninspiring, exempting a strong action opening. Stiller does get his visual cues right though, and the physical comedy of Zoolander 2 is probably its strongest aspect; there are some laughs to be had.
Continuing on the Stiller front, he plays Derek Zoolander with the same lovable idiocy that endeared us to him fifteen years ago. He’s slotted straight back into the role as if he never left it. It’s easy to tell that Stiller is extremely happy to be able to make this film, and he dives in to each scene with enthusiasm. Same goes for co-star Owen Wilson (who I’ve seen painfully little of recently), who plays counterpoint to Zoolander’s dumbness by being a little less dumb. The two’s chemistry is damn near flawless – then again that’s what you can expect from two actors who have made more than 10 pictures together.
Both are outshines however by a returning Will Ferrell. After the deplorable Get Hard made me wince with discontent, its a more-than-welcome return to form for one of the world’s biggest comedy stars. Ferrell’s Jacobim Mugatu is absolutely hilarious at every turn, probably the one thing that lifts Zoolander 2 from being a recycled comedy from the mid-2000s brought into theatres a decade overdue. It’s a near-pantomime performance, but turned up to a level of enlightened hilariousness – you wish he was in the movie a whole lot more.
Unfortunately, the female cast members suffer badly – Penelope Cruz wears tight lycra, and references her breasts midway through explaining the plot. It seems Cruz was only attracted to Zoolander 2 by a large pay packet. Kristen Wiig, one of the world’s most popular female comedians and currently playing in a Best Picture nominee (The Martian) is completely wasted in a role in which none of her jokes land at all. In fact, all of the jokes in Zoolander 2 either don’t land, or they do land but feel old hat in the process.
I think all the problems lie in the screenplay. With four credited writers, you would often expect a bit of a mish-mash or a compromise, but while the script’s tone is consistent, the direction they go in consistently feels outmoded. Without the genuine enthusiasm of its three returning stars, Zoolander 2 could have turned into an unmitigated disaster. With the exception of its cleverly placed throwbacks to the original movie, the script struggles to lift off. It also has a problem with its boundaries – while the first Zoolander was totally ridiculous and they knew it, Zoolander 2 doesn’t feel quite ridiculous enough. It’s because of this that when ridiculous stuff does happen (and my god it does), it feels completely and utterly wrong.
To be honest, I’m a little disappointed. While I don’t believe Zoolander 2 is actually too bad a comedy (its definitely got some laughs), it fails to match the original movie for laughs. Zoolander 2 attempts to have the best of both worlds: they want to make the tone a little more serious, as you would expect with a comedy sequel that wants to take the original film’s components and enlarge them, but at the same time they want to keep the ridiculousness that made Zoolander such a cult classic. It’s this clash of desires that ultimately results in the film having a slightly confused quality, and the wonderful enthusiasm of its leads can’t quite save it.