The past few years have brought some highly anticipated sequels to a few beloved comedies such as Anchorman and Dumb and Dumber but the creators of Zoolander 2 did not seem to learn from the mistakes of sequels past. Like most of the others of its kind, Zoolander 2 is just a tedious rehashing of outdated material relying solely on nostalgia without contributing anything new to the franchise.
The original film and the sequel, both directed by and star Ben Stiller and both follow the story of a dim-witted supermodel, Derek Zoolander, along with a colorful array of outlandishly eccentric characters. Though the original may not be smart, sophisticated, or well-crafted, it had a delightfully funny cast, including Owen Wilson and Will Ferrell, and has eventually become beloved by many. However endearing the original film is, it is almost impossible to imagine a film with even less subtly but its sequel somehow manages to do the impossible.
The original Zoolander took place in a ridiculous, satirized world of fashion but this world is mysteriously missing from the sequel. In fact, the world of fashion is barely even acknowledged in Zoolander 2 at all. In the beginning, Zoolander has been separated from his son and he believes that if he re-joins the fashion world, he will be reunited with him. It should be that simple but it’s not. Instead of continuing this story, the plot turns into a chaotic smorgasbord of absurd subplots, mindlessly crass humor and annoying characters. It’s hard to follow the story exactly because it shifts so much; whiplash may occur but it has something to do with the assassination of superstars, Sting, and the Fountain of Youth.
The same gags are used over and over again and they generally fall flat such as using a tiny cellphone, speaking in weird voices, and constantly referring to the fact that Owen Wilson’s character is having sex with animals. While most of the jokes are not at all funny, they are even, at times, cruel and uncomfortable. It almost feels as though the screenwriters, (Justin Theroux, John Hamburg, and Nicholas Stoller and Stiller himself) went out of their way to make sure audiences were left with a strong sense of irritation. The absence of jokes and an actual story seems to have been replaced by inane cameos that offer nothing to the overall narrative. There’s the old Hollywood myth that if you throw in enough celebrities to any given movie, the audience will be tricked into thinking that they actually liked the film. Zoolander 2 includes attempts to cash in on this philosophy by including everyone from Justin Bieber to Neil Degrasse Tyson but this never actually works because there is nothing impressive about seeing a sad group of celebrities inexplicably roped into another messy Hollywood cash grab. Even the presence of Kristen Wiig and Penélope Cruz can’t save this film no matter how hard they tried. However, even though their characters are both equally idiotic and irritating, it’s hard to hate Wiig’s comedic determination and Cruz’s endearing sincerity.
Like many poor quality comedy sequels that have come before it such train wrecks like Ride Along 2 and Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2, Zoolander 2 contains a lot of pointless CGI. Practical effects in comedy have disappeared in recent years despite the fact that it is the immediate reaction and the spontaneity that makes physical comedy amusing. Most of the physical comedy in Zoolander 2 was assisted with the help of special effects and nothing is less funny than watching Ben Stiller get hit in the face with a bottle that was obviously edited in months after the scene was shot. Also, it would be wrong to mention how creepy Fred Armisen’s face looks digitally inserted onto a ten-year-old’s body. That is just something that no one should ever have to see.
What made the original Zoolander entertaining and endearing was that the movie wasn’t exactly about Derek Zoolander as much as it was about the goofy, flamboyant, ridiculous world around him. The characters involved in his story were just as ridiculous as he was and they even complimented his absurdity by being equally over the top. However, this world is gone in Zoolander 2 and replaced by characters, including his son, who confront him about his outlandish lifestyle and he is forced to face the consequences of his actions. This wouldn’t really be an issue if it were not the sequel to a ridiculous and satirical comedy with no dramatic or realistic situations. Real life problems just do not belong in a film that includes Kiefer Sutherland getting pregnant with Owen Wilson’s baby.
Verdict: 1 out of 5
It is hard to believe that a film that proclaims to be a comedy could be so severely unfunny. Zoolander 2 is truly a nightmarish train wreck of a film whose writers seem to be completely out of touch with comedy as a whole and the very notion that contemporary audiences would find this entertaining is downright insulting. But sure, for some fans of the original, it might bring back a twinge of comforting nostalgia but for the rest, it will bring a steam roller of utter revulsion.