Release date: 12 February 2016
Running time: 102 min
Director: Ben Stiller
Starring: Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Will Ferrell, Penelope Cruz, Kristen Wiig, Benedict Cumberbatch.
It’s been 15 years since Ben Stiller strutted his stuff on the catwalk in the original Zoolander, a pleasantly reliable comedy which combined the worlds of blissfully ignorant male models, and international political conspiracies. He was so hot back then. Developing something of a cult following, Derek Zoolander became to Stiller what Ron Burgundy was to Will Ferrell; a lovable oddball we all wanted more of. Or so we thought. Well we asked for it, and a decade and a half later, the sequel arrives. And it’s bad. Like, really, really, ridiculously bad.
There is no originality here. We find Derek in almost the exact same situation he was in 15 years ago, and is struggling to remain relevant in a world he no longer understands. Rather than advance the character or develop a coherent plot- it’s all estranged sons and some nonsense about the fountain of youth- the main selling point is watching our hero struggle with new fangled devices like Netflix and Uber. You get the feeling this sequel only exists as an excuse to see him pull duck faces while using a selfie stick.
There are also no honest-to-goodness laughs. Zero. The only proper attempt at a real joke comes at the expense of the film, in which a newsreader spells out that the target audience aren’t old enough to remember who Zoolander is, and that falls painfully flat. Presumably the assumption is that including a lot of self-aware, self-deprecating humour will make the audience feel part of the joke. It has the opposite effect, and it’s crushingly disappointing since we all know everyone involved is capable of so much more.
In the absence of any competent joke writing, they turn to two of the most overused tropes in modern Hollywood comedies in an effort to raise a chuckle; out of place celebrity cameos, and elaborately violent CGI pratfalls. Whereas before we had ingenious cameos from David Bowie, now it seems that every Tom, Dick and Harry wants to be smugly in on the joke.These are truly the last refuges of a comedy writer with no original ideas, and we are battered over the head with them at every opportunity.
There is no glimmer of the old flame that made the original a lovable underdog. In hindsight there’s probably a damn good reason why it took so long to put together a sequel for Zoolander. The flimsy, one dimensional lead character had just enough charm to win over audience in a one off film, but when it comes to a second inspection there just isn’t that much to love. To be filed in the ‘Careful What You Wish For’ section, alongside Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues.