After waiting fifteen years for a follow up, Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson return to the characters beloved by many fans around the world and the main question that plagued a couple other notable long awaited sequels hangs above it’s head: was it even worth it? About three years ago Adam McKay and Will Ferrell returned with the fan fueled Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, roughly nine years after the original and really underwhelmed with bits that lasted too long and shoehorned jokes just to say to the audience “Hey, remember this?”
Even longer between sequels was Dumb and Dumber and Dumb and Dumber To with a twenty year gap. The only thing that the second film proved was just how much the quality of the Farrelly brothers had diminished because it was an awful mess of mean humor and the lowest of the low denominator comedy. The first had a sweet heart to it and the sequel tried to jam everything people loved as well as grab a new dumb audience. It failed spectacularly as it should.
So, does Derek Zoolander and Hansel’s story have enough draw to pick it back up a decade and a half after? I have to preface everything by saying that I adore the 2001 original, probably one of Stiller’s best characters ever. Quotable lines, really fantastic cameos and great work from a well put together cast, I watched Zoolander many times since getting it on VHS and then DVD and not even as a guilty pleasure, it’s just that much fun. So, heading into the new film, I was excited but I had the lingering of the Anchorman and Dumb and Dumber sequel screaming at me in the back of my mind.
The beginning starts you out with the main focus: a hooded figure is being chased by dark figures on motorcycles through the streets of Rome. This turns out to be Justin Bieber, who then gets gunned down which, I can’t lie, was slightly satisfying but not particularly funny. We then get our opening credits that fast forwards through Derek (Stiller) and Hansel’s (Owen Wilson) lives in the fifteen years leading to now. Derek’s center for reading (you know the full title) collapsed, killing his wife Matilda and disfiguring Hansel. After having his son Derek Jr. taken away from him, Derek goes into hiding, retiring from modeling. He moves into the snowy mountains of New Jersey to become a “hermit crab.”
Hansel moves into the uncharted desert of Malibu, living with his orgy, a group of eleven different walks of life, including Kiefer Sutherland as himself. Hansel is thrown into an existential crisis when the whole group, male and female, tell him that they are pregnant. Never knowing his own father, Hansel flees the scene looking for answers. Back in New Jersey, Zoolander is visited by Billy Zane who gives him a message from fashion designer Alexanya Atoz (Kristen Wiig) who attempts to coax him out of hiding with a new fashion campaign that she also ropes Hansel into. Obviously a seemingly elaborate and evil plot, this sets up the story, including Hansel’s dilemma and Zoolander’s attempt to get his son back.
There’s no way to let you, the reader, down easy. This film is absolutely atrocious. I don’t think I had more than a slight chuckle until the third act of the film and even that was only for about a minute long stretch. The tragically funny thing about that is Zoolander 2 had four writers on it, including Stiller, co-star Justin Theroux, “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” writer Nicholas Stoller and “I Love You, Man” writer John Hamburg. There seems to be nothing new or original about Zoolander 2, a film that relies on constantly referencing or riffing on things that worked in the first film. Bits go on for far too long and we even constantly retread bits that fall flat. I’m baffled that the talent on this film came up so brutally short.
The most disappointing thing for me is the sheer fact that this movie was teased for years and it feels so utterly uninspired, like Stiller was just doing it, not to appease fans, but to satisfy the studio enough to give him a fat pay cheque, something that is glaringly prevalent in his career at this point. Just look at the Night At The Museum series for proof. Nothing that made the first movie work so incredible well is present in this sequel, even given some funny moments with Wiig and even Sutherland. Those almost feel like fleeting mistaken good parts in a horrible film.
I think what bothered me most about Zoolander 2 is it made me feel incredibly stupid for loving the first film. It feels like Ben Stiller has a complete lack of respect for the audience who adored these characters and shoveled a manure laden offering after years of teasing a continuing story of these two vapid models. With the release of a totally lacking movie it’s clear that the Derek Zoolander joke was over fifteen years ago and this was just the thorough beating of a dead horse. I give Zoolander 2 a one out of five.