Back in 2001, when the first Zoolander came out, people wrote it off as tired and juvenile. How the tables have turned in 2016, so that same exact humor is exactly what we don’t get enough of. It’s not Hangover cool, or 21 Jump Street silly. An acquired taste, sure, but in a way it’s a little more brilliant than those other comedies. It’s completely stupid, but in the most well thought out way possible.
Zoolander 2 doesn’t skip a beat in giving us that same exact charm that made the first one so great. In certain ways it’s funnier than the original. The world around Derek Zoolander has changed, but he definitely hasn’t. Ben Stiller, who writes, directs, and stars in the film, gives us plenty of new lines to quote and a gang of new characters who are just as weird and off-kilter as the originals. It’s absolutely ridiculous, but at the same time, it doesn’t exploit every chance it gets to make an innocuous joke. If you take this film too seriously, it will go over your head.
From the opening scene, you realize you’re in for the same unwieldy satire that made the first one so great. Justin Bieber–one of a few dozen cameos–takes an Instagram selfie after being shot to death.
Someone is killing pop stars, and Interpol agent, Valentina Valencia (Penelope Cruz), is trying to figure out why. She hires Derek Zoolander (Stiller) and his former rival-turned-friend Hansel (Owen Wilson) to help crack the case. Derek has been living as a “hermit crab” recluse since his wife died and his son was taken into protective custody. And Hansel, after suffering a career-ending facial scar, is living somewhere in the desert in an 11-person marriage.
About 45 minutes in or so, as the plot really starts to develop, the humor doesn’t quite keep up, since the characters are at their best when they’re just bantering back and forth. But nonetheless there are plenty of things to keep us entertained.
And then Will Ferrell, as Zoolander’s arch-nemesis Mugatu, shows up in the movie, just as crazy as he was in the original. Then things turn zany and a little darker than they already are. Amidst the action-packed 2nd act, there’s a great dialogue sequence between Derek and Mugatu where the villain tries to trick Derek into switching places with him in prison. Seeing the two of them on screen together is something to behold.
The plot gets a little convoluted here and there, but many things in this movie don’t make sense. That’s the genius of it.
Surrealistic comedy has somewhat gone by the wayside these days, but Stiller is still helping to keep it alive. He recruits another young talent in Kyle Mooney, who is trying to do the same thing. Mooney, doing a take on one of his own popular characters, plays a young model who talks in his own incomprehensible lingo and makes retro shirts from phrases that were said just 15 minutes ago. Perhaps he was chosen for this role because Stiller sees a little bit of himself in Mooney–the ability to not care if anyone else thinks he’s funny, as long as he can make himself laugh. That’s something to admire.