‘Zoolander 2’ movie review: belated sequel fails to live up to original

In Zoolander 2, Ben Stiller’s really really really ridiculously good looking male model is lured out of a self-imposed retirement in the wintry solitude of Siberia (read: New Jersey) to re-join the fashion world and again become one of its top stars.

Or… maybe not? There are twists and turns in this comedy, but one of the most amusing things about Zoolander 2 is the entirely nonsensical plotline, which seems deceptively straightforward upon first glance and completely falls apart in retrospect. But if they weren’t…? Why would he…?

By the end of the movie, the script not only completely contradicts itself, but it doesn’t even care enough to sort out the pieces for the audience.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing: Zoolander and its new sequel belong to the select group of dumb-dumb big-screen comedies that get funnier the stupider they get. It’s one thing to laugh at the idiots onscreen, but another when your average Joe Sixpack can feel smarter than the filmmakers behind the camera. Even if, deep down, we know they might actually be in on the joke.  

In a world of good-bad/bad-good movies it’s tough to rate a Zoolander. I will say this: there were enough laughs here to keep me watching, though I remember having more fondness for the original film. In any event, if you’re buying a ticket to a movie called Zoolander 2 I don’t think you can reasonably be disappointed by what you get here.

That original film contained a truly great dumb-character moment – the happy-go-lucky gasoline fight– and a great subversive cameo, where Vince Vaughn appears onscreen for a couple minutes as Derek Zoolander’s brother… and doesn’t say a single word

There are moments like these in Zoolander 2, but they seem to be fewer and further between, and the novelty wears off a little once the formula becomes apparent; what worked 15 years ago still works now, it just might not be as fresh and fun.

Here, Derek (Stiller) and fellow ex-male model Hansel (Owen Wilson) are recruited (by Billy Zane!) to return to society and appear in a Rome fashion show for magnate Alexanya Atoz (Kristen Wiig) and top designer Don Atari (Kyle Mooney).

As Derek attempts to re-connect with his long-lost son (Cyrus Arnold), who is conveniently in a Rome boarding school, Victoria (Penélope Cruz) and the fashion police (ha, ha) department at INTERPOL pull him into a pop star murder ring that leads them to the cell of super villain Jacobim Mugatu (Will Ferrell), who has been locked up since the events of the previous movie.

Or something like that. Climactic events of Zoolander 2 seem to negate what the first half of the film has been setting up, and if you can make sense of it you’ve dedicated more though to the movie than I have. Towards the end, the film runs out of comic steam as it tries to get through the plot-heavy story.

The celebrity cameos fly fast & furious, and I trust many of them flew right by me. Among the best: Benedict Cumberbatch as the genderless new model All, a heavy-hearted Kiefer Sutherland as a member of Hansel’s love circle, and Neil deGrasse Tyson, who is always worth a laugh in something like this.

Opening against Deadpool, which was genuinely and consistently funny, Zoolander 2 tends to feel a little weak. But in the pantheon of long-delayed dumb comedy sequels, Zoolander 2 fares a little better than, say, Dumb and Dumber To.


Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky has been writing about the Prague film scene and reviewing films in print and online media since 2005. A member of the Online Film Critics Society, you can also catch his musings on life in Prague at expats.cz and tips on mindfulness sourced from ancient principles at MaArtial.com.

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