FILM REVIEW – ZOOLANDER 2. With Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Penélope Cruz, Kristen Wiig, Will Ferrell. Written by Justin Theroux & Ben Stiller and Nicholas Stoller and John Hamburg. Directed by Ben Stiller. Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content, a scene of exaggerated violence, and brief strong lanaguage. 102 minutes.
It’s been fifteen years since “Zoolander” and apparently someone–possibly director/star/co-writer Ben Stiller–felt it needed a sequel. So the world gets ZOOLANDER 2, and it’s as silly and easily disposable as the original.
Let’s not waste much time on the “plot.” Derek Zoolander (Stiller) has been a recluse since the death of his wife, becoming a “hermit crab” as he calls it, and it’s only the arrival of the actor Billy Zane with an invitation from fashion queen Alexanya Atoz (Kristen Wiig) that lures him back to the runway. Zane has a similar invitation for another retired model, Hansel (Owen Wilson), who has been living in the desert with his orgy collective, including Kiefer Sutherland. It’s a scheme to get to Zoolander’s long lost son (Cyrus Arnold) and to spring evil genius Mugatu (Will Ferrell) from “fashion prison.” With the help of an officer from the fashion division of Interpol, played by Penélope Cruz, things will be set right.
Oh, did that need a “spoiler alert?” Not really. The story makes little sense with Zoolander’s son believed to have a secret power, then not, then perhaps. None of it really matters, nor is it intended to. If Hansel needs to hide on the rotor of a moving helicopter, he can. Road Runner cartoons have more connection to the real world.
This is essentially a series of gags and unexpected appearances by guest stars. How Stiller and his team managed to get people ranging from Sting to Neil DeGrasse Tyson to real fashionistas like Vera Wang and Tommy Hilfiger is a mystery. Perhaps we’re lucky that Donald Trump doesn’t make an appearance, as he did in the original film. It’s not only the numerous guest stars, it’s what he gets them to do. Perhaps the most bizarre turn is by Benedict Cumberbatch, who turns up as the sexually ambiguous All.
The film makes nice use of its Rome locations, allowing it to seem lusher and more sophisticated than the it really is. Indeed the most interesting part may be the early scenes in Rome as Zoolander and Hansel slowly discover just how out of touch they are with contemporary fashion, not that the film has much to say about what that fashion is. It’s hard to believe it took four writers to come up with this.
Depending on your threshold for inanity and slapstick you’ll either find this hilarious, or just mildly amusing. If the latter, the film’s few real laughs are few and far between. If the former, you may leave the theater wondering if we have to wait another fifteen years for “Zoolander 3.”
The answer to that is: only if we’re lucky.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His most recent book is “Shh! It’s a Secret: a novel about Aliens, Hollywood and the Bartender’s Guide.” He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.