Zoolander 2
Director: Ben Stiller
Stars: Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Penélope Cruz
Duration: 102 mins
Class: 15
KRS Releasing Ltd

The character of Derek Zoolander was conceived by comedic stalwart Ben Stiller and his collaborator Drake Sather as a sketch for the 1996 VH1 fashion awards. The satirical sketches started off with the very funny premise of Stiller as a male model, with a look at what goes on behind the scenes of a fashion photo shoot. The sketch was hugely successful, and it was back the next year, the popularity of the character giving its creators the idea of developing a feature film.

This came to pass and Zoolander was released in September of 2001. It initially failed to find an audience – it was a sombre time in the US following the tragic events of September 11. Yet, the antics of the titular character and his rival / friend Hansel (Owen Wilson) found a new lease on life on DVD, and over the years the film developed a following worthy of any cult classic. And now, after many attempts in the interim 15 years of getting a sequel together, it is here.

Fans will recall that Zoolander ended with Derek leaving the fashion world for good to open – take a deep breath – The Derek Zoolander Centre for Kids Who Can’t Read Good and Who Wanna Learn to Do Other Stuff Good Too. As Zoolander 2 opens, we learn that the centre is no more following a horrific disaster, a tragedy which forced Derek and Hansel to retire to live isolated lives away from civilisation. However, when they both receive an invitation to attend a major fashion show by the grandiloquent Alexanya Atoz (Kristen Wiig wasted) in Rome, the lure of their old world is too irresistible to ignore, yet they are unprepared for the changes they witness. In the meantime, many celebrities are being mysteriously assassinated, and Interpol agent Valentina Valencia (Penelope Cruz, gamely playing along) realises that the crimes are somehow linked to Zoolander and she solicits his help.

The many plot strands the script tries to weave together get so horrifically tangled they choke the humour out of any given situation

The first few minutes of the film promise something that the film never delivers, as a hooded figure is running for his life across the streets of Rome hunted down by assassins on motorbikes. We soon discover it is Justin Bieber (played by Justin Bieber) and he finds himself on the wrong side of hundreds of the assassins’ bullets, and succeeds in sending a vital clue to the authorities (via a selfie) before dying a dramatic death. Kudos to Bieber for playing along with this, even more so when it becomes apparent that this willingness to send himself up soon proves to be the funniest and blackest moment in the film, as it’s a slide down the catwalk to disaster from thereon in.

The many plot strands the script tries to weave together get so horrifically tangled they choke the humour out of any given situation. Adding to the chaos are Derek’s attempts to regain custody of his son, the return of his nemesis Mugatu (Will Ferrell, completely OTT), and some nonsense about the fountain of youth. It is hard to believe it took four writers 15 years to come up with something so spectacularly unfunny. Each thin storyline is stretched to breaking point, and is fattened only by the appearance of dozens of celebrity icons from the music, fashion and cinema worlds and before long it seems clear that their presence is required only to mask the fact that this is little more than a completely futile exercise in trying to recreate the humour that powered the first one.

Stiller is capable of so much better, yet he reduces Zoolander to nothing more than a dimwit whose every uttering displays his crass ignorance about everything, while the scenes with his long-lost son (Cyrus Arnold) are forced. For effect, he throws character’s trademark looks (it’s the Magnum! It’s Le Tigre!) at the camera every so often. It soon becomes grating. Almost as if to keep up, Wilson’s Hansel does some unattractive mugging of his own, while falling into the dazed slacker persona character he has perfected over the years. That soon becomes boring.

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