Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Review: Zoolander 2

Image courtesy of Paramount Pictures.
There's a running joke throughout Ben Stiller's "Zoolander 2" concerning the age and cultural viability of the film's two leads, former male model Derek Zoolander (Stiller) and his pal Hansel (Owen Wilson), and it's a little unclear if the filmmakers are aware that the movies's characters and cultural touchstones are themselves a little dated.

Released in 2001 shortly after the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center, "Zoolander" was a film of its time, when irreverent comedies about kooky characters often played by Will Ferrell and Adam Sandler were at a premium. This sequel, which is set 15 years later and involves a whole lot of explaining as to where its characters have been this whole time, is a slightly lesser sequel to an already-just-OK scenario.

That being said, there are some decent gags here, especially ones involving explanations as to where Zoolander and Hansel have been hiding out. Another running joke that's not quite hilarious but almost sincere in its absurdity involves Hansel's orgiastic relationship with 11 others, including an elderly man, several buxom women, Kiefer Sutherland (as himself) and a hippopotamus.

Zoolander is brought back from the wilds after a series of pop and rock stars are bumped off. Justin Bieber is mowed down by an unnecessary bit of gunfire at the film's beginning in a scene that could have been a lot more amusingly handled.

An Interpol agent (Penelope Cruz) believes Zoolander could possess some sort of key to the mystery of the killings. He, of course, enlists Hansel and they head to Rome, where they are expected to attend a fashion show held by a sinister seeming mogul (Kristen Wiig, virtually unrecognizable), who speaks in a nearly indecipherable - and mostly funny - accent.

As it turns out, Zoolander's long lost son - who happens to be overweight, which results in some not particularly funny fat jokes - also happens to be in Rome, so Derek decides to seek him out for a reconciliation.

Meanwhile, the first film's villain, Mugatu (Will Ferrell) returns to wreak havoc. He is first seen during a visit Zoolander makes to the fashion prison where he is being held in a scene that stretches on a little too long.

While the jokes are hit and miss - with more emphasis on the latter - in this sequel, Stiller and Wilson have an undeniable chemistry that is mostly missing - or obviously forced - in most modern comedies. Even if only a fraction of the jokes land, there's a certain charm to seeing this pair together again.

But "Zoolander 2" isn't as clever or funny as it seems to think it is. There's some biting satire aimed at the fashion industry and, surprisingly, some of that scene's top names are on-hand to take part in the lashing. But, sadly, this isn't quite enough to make the picture work. There are some funny moments to be had, but I've seen enough evidence to suggest that Stiller (who also directs), Wilson, Cruz and Ferrell can do much better than this.

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