"Zoolander 2," the 15-years-in-the-making follow-up to the 2001 comedy hit, finds former “Blue Steel” supermodel Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller) “out of fashion,” literally and figuratively. Following a tragic event involving his wife and his Center For Kids Who Can’t Read Good, Derek stepped away from fashion and the world. He now lives the life of a “hermit crab,” complete with a long beard that obscures his “really, really, really, really, really ridiculously good looking face.”
When some of the most beautiful people in the world turn up dead, their Instagram images frozen in time in perma-duckface, Derek’s most famous facial expression, Zoolander and his past partner Hansel (Owen Wilson) are tricked into travelling to Rome to uncover who is behind this evil plot to rid the world of good looking celebrities.
In the Eternal City the dim-witted models will search for Derek’s long-lost son -- whose blood may contain the secret to eternal fashionability -- battle fashion criminal Mugato (Will Ferrell) and meet new high-powered fashionista All (Benedict Cumberbatch). Aiding the boys is Valentina (Penélope Cruz), a former swimsuit model troubled by her inability to “transition to print and runway work,” now working as an agent for Interpol’s Global Fashion Division.
“Zoolander 2’s” main joke isn’t the Blue Steel, the pouty-lipped move that made Zoolander a superstar, or the dim-witted antics of Derek and Hansel. No, the movie’s best joke is its commentary on how quickly the best-by date comes for modern day celebrities.
The speed of popular culture has revved considerably since 2001 and what seems hip today may be passé tomorrow. Fashion is fleeting, as cameos from Anna Wintour, Tommy Hilfiger, Marc Jacobs demonstrate, but the big question is has “Zoolander 2” reached its expiration date?
I usually avoid the scatological in my reviews but suffice to say any movie whose best joke involves the morphing of the word “faces” into feces over and over, that features a hotel made of “reclaimed human waste” and subtitles itself with “No. 2” is really asking for it.
To put it more delicately, villain Mugato marvels at how “super white hot blazingly stupid” Derek is, and you’ll do the same thing about the film. Stupid can be OK if it’s funny but “Zoolander 2” leaves the laughs on the runway. Stiller’s mugging gets tired quickly and the simple, juvenile jokes were much funnier 15 years ago when we heard them the first time. To use the movie’s own dialogue against itself, “You guys are so old-school,” says Don Atari (Kyle Mooney), “so lame.”
Stiller, who directs and co-wrote the script, jam packs every frame with with cameos in a desperate grab for relevancy. Everyone from Justin Bieber (who appearance may please non- Beliebers) to Joe Jonas and Katy Perry to Ariana Grande decorate the screen, while Susan Sarandon does a “Rocky Horror” call back and Billy Zane demonstrates that he is no longer an actor, but a pop-culture punchline. I doubt even Neil deGrasse Tyson could scientifically explain why he chose to appear in this dreck.
Fred Armisen as an eleven-year-old manager of social media tries his best to make his brief role strange-funny while Will Ferrell’s Mugatu is essentially an audition to play an alternate universe Bond villain.
The best thing about “Zoolander 2” that it is so desperately unfunny it's hard to imagine Stiller and Company making a third one.