Nov 18, 2011

[Movies] Zoolander (2001)

Zoolander (2001)
This was another classic case of my partner turning to me and saying, "I can't believe you haven't seen..."

I can't quite explain why I never got around to watching this movie. I suppose it has something to do with my limited tolerance for Ben Stiller comedies, especially in the post There's Something About Mary era. There's just something that rubs me the wrong way about his brand of humor, thus my reluctance to get into this weird satire of the modeling world.

Did I enjoy the movie? Well that's really hard to say. As much as my range of preferred comedy includes the likes of the Mel Brooks movies, somehow this movie just didn't feel all that "smart" enough for me. And I'm not expecting rocket science here, but I do appreciate the odd kind of wit that goes into certain varieties of humor.

While I did find certain bits rather funny, it wasn't quite for me to say that I actually liked this movie nor do I regret not having seen it sooner.


Zoolander is a 2001 comedy directed by Ben Stiller. He was also part of the team that developed the screenplay together with Drake Sather and John Hanburg.

At the center of the movie is the dim-witted yet rather popular model Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller) who has grown to worldwide fame due to his signature look "Blue Steel". But he is ousted as the world's top male fashion model by younger face Hansel (Owen Wilson), who snags the award after Derek had won it several years in a row. After a most unflattering magazine article written by Matilda Jeffries (Christine Taylor) and the loss of many of his male model friends in a tragic gasoline-fight accident, he decides to retire from the world of modeling and focus on more important things.

Elsewhere, we have fashion designer and icon Mugatu (Will Ferrell) who has been tasked by the heads of the fashion industry to assassinate the new Prime Minister of Malaysia who is working to end the cheap child labor practices in the country that help the industry. Thus he crafts the plan to brainwash Derek Zoolander into becoming a unknowing assassin when the time is right and his trigger - the song "Relax" is played.

Yes, the movie is about Zoolander being turned into an assassin.

Ben Stiller
Cover of Ben Stiller
Given this is a comedy, such ridiculous premises are to be expected I suppose. And this aspect of things was pretty much forgivable. However what was tedious for me was dealing with the need to stress how stupid Zoolander was supposed to be along with the other models. One can take only so much in terms of these sorts of gags that try to draw humor from someone acting like an idiot. I can probably take this in smaller doses, like the length of a Saturday night Live sketch or something. But for this to go on for the entire duration of the movie? That's a bit much.

And yes, I acknowledge that this is meant as a sort of satire of the modeling industry, and I accept that premise. However I'm not sure if the comedic value was fully realized in terms of how it was executed or if this kind of humor might have worked better as a recurring series of sketches on some comedy show instead.

The movie wasn't totally disjoint, I'll give it that. The whole assassination plot, while ridiculous, still generally made sense in terms of the internal logical flow of the movie. It didn't quite feel like a series of sketch jokes tied together into a movie, although there were moments when that certainly crossed my mind. Thankfully they stayed within the bounds of the comedy that they were generally aiming for, so it wasn't a total wreck.

Will Ferrell has always been rather over the top for me, and thus is another actor I don't always enjoy. But to be fair, his portrayal of what an evil fashion mogul would be like did rather work in the form of Mugatu. I wasn't totally amused by all his sequences, but I was certainly less annoyed than normal and I did laugh at more of his bits than I had expected. So good job, Will.

And with the news of a Zoolander sequel in the works, I don't know if I'll bring myself to watch that new installment. However my partner has cited this movie as a bit of a guilty pleasure for him, so I foresee us making the time to watch it sooner or later. Hopefully it'll be a little bit smarter than this without totally abandoning his concept for the Zoolander character.

Given all that, Zoolander still gets 3 crazy walk-off styles out of a possible 5.




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