Jul 1, 2016

[Movies] Zoolander 2 (2016)

I may not be as big a Zoolander fan as my partner is, I do have a good appreciation for the movie. It's an unusual cultural artifact that could easily be dismissed as just another stupid Ben Stiller movie, but I have to admit a different sort of animal entirely. I can't necessarily say that it's the greatest movie ever, but it does have a unique charm to it and it certainly makes sense.

I don't think any of us could have expected a Zoolander 2 sequel to come along since that sort of mad brilliance isn't necessarily easy to replicate. I think a lot of the first movie's success also had to tie into the time it was released together with the clever writing.

This sequel leans a little heavily on the first movie and it doesn't necessarily stand well on its own, which is a shame for newer viewers who hadn't encountered the original movie. I can understand why the movie didn't quite do so well at the box office. It was really more like an odd extension of the first movie with rather dated humor that really fit better with its original early 2000's vibe.

Synopsis: Zoolander 2 is the American comedy sequel movie written and directed by Ben Stiller. Other writers that contributed to the screenplay are John Hamburg, Nicholas Stoller and Justin Theroux.

The movie begins with the death of Justin Bieber, which apparently is  just one of many celebrity deaths as of late. Fashion Interpol has yet to determine why these celebrities are being killed, but Valentina Valencia (Penélope Cruz) determines that many of the victims were trying to recreate "Blue Steel", which had once been Derek Zoolander's (Ben Stiller) signature look. But Derek had gone into retirement after a tragedy at launch of the Derek Zoolander Center for Kids Who Can't Read Good, as had been planned at the end of the first movie. But somehow he is important to getting to the bottom of this mystery, and thus Interpol decides to seek him out in order to get his help.

This weird future also involves Hansel (Owen Wilson), Zoolander's former rival, also having gone into a somewhat isolationist retirement after a falling out between the two. And of course the need to find Zoolander eventually leads to Hansel as well and a greater fashion conspiracy at work.

A lot of folks react to the fact that this sequel involves a crazy number of celebrity cameos starting from Justin Bieber's death scene at the beginning of the movie and a good number of others. It reaches a point where it gets a little crazy and you begin to wonder how much of the budget went inot those cameos or maybe all of them were really big Zoolander fans?

That said, the movie's plot was really closely tied to first one and this goes down to many scenes. Thus the first encounter with Hansel's harem will always feels a little over the top and quite left field unless you go back to the first movie and come to appreciate that it was always sort of his thing. Bringing back the villain Mugatu (Will Ferrell) was generally fun, but again his little cadre was pretty much composed of the same team from the first movie but the nuances of their performances don't quite strike home without the full context of the first movie in mind.

The jokes were generally okay, but a lot of stuff could have certainly fallen flat without a good appreciation for the first movie or even the late 90's / early 2000's culture that the first movie had tapped into into so deeply. I generally enjoyed it, but it's not like I was rolling in my seat or anything and I can understand if others just didn't get it.

Zoolander 2 is too much a product of the first movie and that's both its greatest strength and its greatest weakness. It gets a few laughs but it didn't quite recapture the quirky charm of the original and thus we're left with a somewhat sad echo of it instead. Thus the movie gets a fair 3 not so great walk-offs out of a possible 5.

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