Zoolander 2

Posted: February 20, 2016 in Film reviews
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Directed by Ben Stiller. Starring Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Penélope Cruz and Will Ferrell.

Zoolander_2_Trailer_news_under_the_radar

In Paris Justin Bieber is hunted down and shot by mysterious assassins. Before he expires the precocious prince of pop takes a selfie which he posts online. He is the latest in a long line of pop stars who’ve been murdered, and in each instance the victim has taken a selfie posing with what looks to Fashion Interpol agent Valentina Valencia (Cruz) very much like Blue Steel, the signature pout of renowned male model Derek Zoolander (Stiller).

The only problem is that Zoolander has been in self-imposed exile for the last fifteen years after the tragic death of his wife Matilda, and after his son, Derek Jr., was taken away by social services. As luck would have it however, Zoolander’s good friend Billy Zane has tracked him down with a message from bigshot fashion designer Alexanya Atoz (Kristen Wiig) offering him the chance to come out of retirement. On the basis that social services might look favourably on him and return custody of his son if they see he has a job, Zoolander agrees.

Billy Zane also visits another former male model, the laidback Hansel, who has also been in exile since the same tragedy that killed Matilda also left him horribly disfigured.

Though initially wary of one another Zoolander and Hansel join forces with Valencia, but can they solve the mystery of the murdered rock stars, can Derek win back his son, and just where does jailed fashion designer Jacobim Mugatu fit into all of this?

Sequels are tricky things, and comedy sequels are especially difficult even if they come out a year or two after the original, let alone if there’s been a gap of fifteen years, during which time the original film has become a cult classic. Can such a sequel ever live up to the original? Can it be anywhere near as funny?

Prevailing wisdom suggests that in the case of Zoolander 2 the answer is very much no, but whilst I can’t, hand on heart, sit here and tell you it’s anywhere near as good as Zoolander, it’s by no means the disaster some critics have made it out to be, I enjoyed it and I laughed pretty much consistently throughout the film.

Which isn’t to suggest that every joke hits home, they don’t and a lot of jokes, including ones that trade on current fads like Uber, fall a little flat. In addition there’s one miscarriage related joke that’s really in quite poor taste (even despite the very unrealistic circumstances) but, when the jokes work they’re very funny, in particular there’s a great Facebook gag, and Mugatu’s cunning escape plan still makes me giggle just thinking about it now!

What’s scariest is how little Stiller and Wilson seem to have changed in fifteen years and both slip seamlessly into the roles. Stiller’s idiot man child and Wilson’s zoned out dolt still manage to be eminently likeable, even when being ever so slightly offensive to people they meet. Newcomer to the franchise (are two films a franchise I wonder?) Cruz is great as the former swimsuit model turned fashion policewoman, providing a valuable straight woman for Stiller and Wilson to bounce off. Will Ferrell returns as Mugatu and similarly it’s like he’s never been away. Ferrell is an actor I mostly prefer in small doses, and most of his most memorable roles have been the ones where he wasn’t the centre of attention for the whole film (See Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back and Zoolander as prime examples) and thankfully Mugatu doesn’t outstay his welcome here. He’s in it enough to be hilarious but not so much that he becomes annoying.

Really the only failure in regard to the big hitters is Wiig, who I usually like, but buried under latex and with a curious vocal affectation she isn’t given enough time to really grab our attention and I wonder if originally there was more of her in this until they realised the character wasn’t really working?

Given his age and lack of experience I was much more impressed with Cyrus Arnold as Derek Jr. who never seems overawed by the big name company he’s keeping.

Pretty much everyone from the original film is back in some capacity and like the first film Zoolander 2 relies on a heap of celebrity cameos. Here is where the film becomes a little shakier, because though it’s fun to play spot the star at the time, in hindsight there are perhaps a few too many of them which does give the film a slightly smug, self-indulgent feel. If Zoolander was very much something of an outsider film Zoolander 2 is clearly an insider. Which doesn’t mean some of the cameos aren’t pleasing and funny, just that maybe this is a film that’s a little too pleased with itself.

Of course the counter argument is that as a film that’s all about surface and being really, really, ridiculously good-looking, that might be the point?

It’s not as good as Zoolander, and though it’s hard to be sure I don’t think it’s going to be anywhere near as quotable. Some of the jokes miss their intended targets by miles and some characters don’t make a favourable impression (Atoz and Benedict Cumberbatch’s curious turn as ‘All’) and yet I laughed a lot. Zoolander and Hansel remain engaging—if stupid—protagonists and however shallow they appear it’s clear they both have good hearts so you always want to root for them.

It’s really stretching the joke now, but it is a lot of fun if you disengage your brain for 100 minutes and I think I’ll definitely be happy to watch it over and over. Ignore the critics, and no, I haven’t been taking crazy pills!

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