I'm sitting here the morning after having watched what may qualify as one of my biggest disappointments of 2016, the return of Derek Zoolander and Hansel in Ben Stiller's wholly unnecessary Zoolander 2, while sipping on a cup of Magnum Exotics coffee.
Much like Zoolander 2, my coffee is cold, flavorless and leaves a pretty wretched aftertaste.
To fully understand how disappointed I am by Zoolander 2, you must realize that I absolutely loved 2001's Zoolander, an out-of-nowhere comif force of nature that had me, quite literally, laughing to the point of tears in the movie theatre. Was Zoolander brilliant, award-winning cinema? Of course not, but it made me laugh like nothing had made me laugh in quite some time and became one of the very few films I actually bother to buy on home video.
I must confess that I very nearly decided to not review Zoolander 2, a fact resulting from Paramount Pictures' decision to treat my hometown of Indy as an irrelevant market by not offering promotional screenings to local press or Indy audiences despite the utter tackiness of still continuing to send trailer after trailer and press release after press release sharing the good news from other screenings around the country.
Alas, I relented because, well, it's Zoolander 2 and I'd anxiously been awaiting this film's arrival for years and with an even more fevered anticipation in the last few months as we began to see more and more publicity about the film.
Who knew that Paramount was actually doing Indy a favor?
Zoolander 2 is actually worse than a bad film. It's a decidedly mediocre film. It's kind of like the Donald Trump of cinema appealing only to those with cryogenically frozen senses of humor and having an unshakeable faith in the concept that louder is better, substance is irrelevant and if you keep saying the same thing over and over and over and over again eventually someone will laugh or at least take you seriously.
So, I'm guessing that Zoolander 2 will play well in New Hampshire.
This time around, Stiller, who also co-wrote and directs the film, is back as Zoolander, now a widow after his wife (Christine Taylor) is killed when a building that Zoolander himself designed collapses.
Yeah, Zoolander 2 tries to get laughs out of this. Yeah, it fails.
Hansel, on the other hand, is a loner traumatized by a wildly inappropriate orgy having gone awry.
The two "retired" supermodels are drawn back into the modeling scene by a mysterious delivery received by Billy Zane playing, well, Billy Zane. Soon, they're off to connect with Penelope Cruz playing a cop from Interpol's fashion division. Zoolander tracks down his teenage son who, not surprisingly, is not gifted with his father's "supermodel" looks. Will Ferrell, easily the highlight of the film, is back as the dastardly Mugatu.
As near as I could tell, the film's dozen or so celebrity cameos are intended to somehow connect all of this together. It doesn't work.
Stiller, whose primary comic gift has always been a willingness to give himself 110%, at least using Zoolander's math skills, to nearly everything he tries. Stiller is really a comedian's dream because he's relentlessly committed to making everyone around him look better.
Who doesn't love a guy like that?
Unfortunately, Zoolander 2 is filled with half-baked ideas that could use a whole lot more cooking and comedy gags that feel like Stiller and his fellow writers, including Justin Theroux, are trying to force laughs where there are none to be forced. It's kind of like Donald Trump's hair - once you've laughed at it once, it's simply not funny anymore.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic