***1/2 (out of 5)
February 12, 2016
Ben Stiller as DEREK ZOOLANDER
Owen Wilson as HANSEL
Will Ferrell as JACOBIM MUGATU
Penelope Cruz as MELANIE VALENTINA
Kristen Wiig as ALEXANYA ATOZ
Cyrus Arnold as DEREK ZOOLANDER JR.
Directed by: Ben Stiller
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
Unplanned comedy sequels can be a tricky thing. Ever since franchises started to emerge as big bucks back in the 1980s, Hollywood has struggled with delivering a second movie that is as fresh and original as the first one. Of course by definition, a sequel simply cannot be as original as the primary movie, but that doesn’t stop Hollywood from trying.
Fifteen years ago, Ben Stiller co-wrote and directed a wickedly funny send-up of the fashion industry with his comedy “Zoolander.” Almost everything about the movie was absurd – from the concept of Stiller himself and his buddy Owen Wilson as “really really ridiculously good-looking male models” – to the choice of Will Ferrell to play the bad guy. And that was part of the fun.
Stiller and Company has been talking about doing a sequel for years, and now a decade and a half later, they have managed one. In “Zoolander 2,” Derek Zoolander (Stiller) comes out of hiding after his wife died in a freak building accident and the loss of his son to child protective services. Along for the ride is Hansel (Wilson), who has been “horribly disfigured” (read as: received a minor scar) and also had gone into hiding. Together, Derek and Hansel must thwart a lethal plan in the fashion industry while trying to reconnect with the younger Zoolander, who happens to be much smarter than the two of them combined but also not nearly as “really really ridiculously good looking.”
I’ll admit that the story seems quite forced. Similar to other forced sequels like “Porky’s 2: The Next Day,” “Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me” and “Horrible Bosses 2,” “Zoolander 2” has a thin story that exists for no other reason than to bring the gang back together. That’s not to say that the original “Zoolander” was particularly profound. However, it did feel like an organic story rather than an excuse.
However, also like “Porky’s 2: The Next Day,” “Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me” and “Horrible Bosses 2,” an excuse can work. There’s still plenty of material to lampoon, though not just in the fashion industry itself (including a scathing condemnation of the overdone cosmetic surgery process embodied by the villainess played by Kristen Wiig).
In today’s hyperactive social media culture, the narcissism that was once reserved for the fashion industry has bled over into everyday life. From the over-dependence on social media to the vain nature of the selfie generation, “Zoolander 2” finds plenty of sacred cows to skewer. And like the previous film, it manages to skewer these cows with the full cooperation and involvement of the targets themselves.
Aside from a slicker look and more refined style (along with fifteen years of quality director experience under Stiller’s belt), there’s nothing about “Zoolander 2” that tops the original. But that’s okay because I don’t think that was anyone’s intention. Instead, it’s a fun reunion of absurdity that fans of the original can enjoy.
I’m okay if “Zoolander 2” is the “Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me” to the original film’s “Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery.” It’s not perfect, but it was certainly entertaining.