In terms of popular opinion, I seem to be way out of step regarding Zoolander. The original movie was, I thought, a pretty underwhelming limp-wristed attempt at satire consisting of the same gag teased out to fill an entire movie. Twenty minutes in and I found myself despairing of a film that was content to rely on a single joke, that Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller) was a naive and shallow-minded but relatively earnest plonker, listlessly stretched out for and hour and a half. As a stinging indictment of global fashion it was a non-event and as a piece of comedic art it was as satisfying as repeatedly opening the same page on a child’s pop-up book.
Despite my reservations, however, scores of people truly seem to love Zoolander and find Ben Stiller’s dim-witted performance genuinely endearing and hilarious. That groundswell of love for the first movie has seen Paramount dust off the leather trousers and bring the small-minded Derek Zoolander out of retirement after 15 long years. My major concern was that a second outing would be a joyless repeat of the first, but who knows, perhaps Stiller, Wilson et al will have thought of a second joke after all this time?
Zoolander 2 begins with a montage of television news footage clueing the audience in to the goings-on of Zoolander and the wider fashion world in the fifteen years since we last saw him. A disaster at Derek’s Center for Kids Who Can’t Read Good and Who Wanna Learn to Do Other Stuff Good Too has seen his wife Matilda (Christine Jeffries) fatally crushed and his friend Hansel (Owen Wilson)following Derek’s insistence that the building be constructed from the exact same materials as the original model. Consequently, both Derek and Hansel have retired from modelling and separately gone into hiding. Meanwhile, pop stars around the world are being murdered leaving a look on their faces that bear some resemblance to one of Derek’s famous poses, causing Melanie Valentina (Penelope Cruz) of Interpol’s fashion police to attempt to track down Derek to unravel the mystery.
I would say it’s good news for everyone who fell over laughing at the first movie, because this is a case of more of the same: the Stiller and Wilson pea-brained double-act (again) but with even more celebrity cameos shoe-horned in for good measure, but never have I sat in a screening of a comedy movie and felt such a palpable sense of awkwardness and lack of mirth from an entire cinema. I don’t believe there was a single audible laugh for the first twenty minutes and when the titters did come, they were few and far between.
Interestingly, part of idea behind this new movie is the fact that both Derek and Hansel are no longer relevant, finding themselves at odds with the current state of fashion and popular culture. As I sat among an audience positively squirming with embarrassment, I wondered if this wasn’t some clever piece of meta-commentary on the characters and the film itself. If the joke hadn’t run out of steam 15 years ago, surely it has now? As they blather about surrounded by pop star pals and fashion designers, Stiller and Wilson have the look of two class clowns who have shown up to their high school reunion still peddling the same shit that made their chums laugh during double maths.
The one redeeming feature is the inclusion of Kyle Mooney as a deliberately belligerent hipster who only likes things ironically. A single gag relating to a deliberately dreadful tattoo caused me to laugh out loud in earnest for the first and last time during Zoolander 2’s 104 ghastly minutes. Don’t mind me while I gloat a little and exclaim that I was right all along. With any luck it’ll be at least another fifteen years before Stiller dusts off his leather trousers.
Comedy | USA, 2016 | 12A | Paramount Pictures | 12th February 2016 (UK) | Dir.Justin Theroux | Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Will Ferrell, Kristen Wiig, Penelope Cruz,Christine Jeffries