“Zoolander 2” is unfortunately not a good movie. Whereas the first “Zoolander” had some heart and came across as a fun and funny skewering of pop culture, “Zoolander 2” feels misshapen and just cobbled together, a weird series of bad jokes and celebrity cameos which make less and less sense as the movie wears on, until the whole thing finally ends with a group cameo by some of the world’s top fashion designers, cameos which surely made not one single person laugh, because who gives a shit if Tommy Hilfiger or Anna Wintour appear in this movie? What teenager is going to be wowed by this movie having a couple of lines of dialogue for Marc Jacobs or Valentino Garavani? And which in-the-know fashionistas (who actually would recognize these people) are ardent fans of Ben Stiller and absurdist comedy? For whom exactly is this terrible movie intended? Justin Bieber fans who also want to see him killed? Folks excited for a 2016 comedy featuring fat jokes? Susan Boyle completists? People who laugh at the mere sight of Willie Nelson?
“Zoolander 2” is an insane movie, and not in a good way. It looks pretty lousy, even for a brightly-lit comedy, and the “story,” as it were, definitely feels like 2 or 3 different screenplays mashed together. Like they couldn’t decide if they wanted to make a movie about Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller) being a terrible father or if they wanted to make a movie about old fashion icons staging a comeback or if they wanted to make a movie about the fashion industry’s obsession with youth and overly thin models, so they just threw it all into a blender and hit the “frappe” button and now we have this odd thing in which Derek is a widower and single father who had his son taken away from him by child services and he stages a fashion comeback so he can try to get his son back but he doesn’t realize this whole thing is somehow a set up by Mugatu (Will Ferrell) to lure Derek’s kid into a trap so he can do a blood sacrifice that will somehow give multiple people everlasting youth, and also Hansel (Owen Wilson) has to decide which orgy group he loves more or something like that, and also a bunch of celebrities and pop stars around the world have been killed and trust me when I say it only tangentially connects to the rest of this slop.
And also Penélope Cruz is in this movie as a member of Interpol’s Fashion Police because fuck you America, that’s why.
This might have more to do with the current cinematic sensibilities of Ben Stiller, who co-wrote and directed this movie just like he did with his last movie, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” and both of these movies have something in common which seems to speak to a larger issue at hand. Between that 2013 film and this one, Stiller has become a sort of “master” at inserting product placement into his movies. No longer is it enough for a character to be seen drinking a branded beverage, or driving a specific brand new car, or walk past a display of some sort of commodity. Now these items must somehow make it into the story and dialogue. Whether it is Ben Stiller as Walter Mitty talking about how great it was to work at a Papa John’s, or Ben Stiller as Derek Zoolander loudly exclaiming which two movies he received in the mail from Netflix, companies and products get name dropped repeatedly, ensuring that the advertisers and marketers who paid to have their products included in the movie get their full dollars’ worth. In “Zoolander,” Starbucks was name dropped as something to make fun of, but in “Zoolander 2” products are meant to be extolled and consumed, an integral part of our daily lives. This is a reflection of Stiller’s view of his own art, which he apparently feels totally free to compromise so he can get a few extra bucks, either put toward his bottom line or put toward the movie’s budget. Should we blame him for taking money from Samsung and putting their products everywhere so he could have a few extra dollars to put in to the movie in the form of a lousy special effect? The answer is yes, yes we should. He needed the extra money to produce something for the film? Why not find a smart and creative way to do what you want to do without capitulating to corporate overlords?
Honestly, if the movie was funny, this wouldn’t be that noticeable of a problem. But because I am not being distracted by jokes, I am free to pick up on everything else happening in this movie. That includes the crass and abundant commercialism as well as the humor predicated largely on the physical appearances of others. The Ben Stiller who made “Zoolander” fifteen years ago took much more time to craft a story that worked and jokes that were funny and this current Still has no time for any of that, he just wants to finally crank something out that people will pay money for, and congrats he did it, but it sucks. It actually sucks so bad it is a lot like “Dumb & Dumber To” in which this movie is making me question how much I actually like the original, should I go back and see that is actually isn’t that good? Because how can the same people be responsible for two similar things that are on opposite ends of the quality spectrum?
Does the idea of Keifer Sutherland, as himself, getting pregnant in an orgy make you chuckle? Cause then we have the movie for you.
Once upon a time, the idea of a sequel to “Zoolander” sounded like a great idea. Now, however, it has proven to be disastrous and downright horrible. We asked for this? Is this the movie we deserved? Should we stop hoping for “Mystery Men 2?” Because this is an early and easy contender for worst movie of 2016. We’ll see how this holds up by the end of the year, but it will be hard to knock this one off that particular perch.