Cult comedy sequels are mostly an excuse for funny actors to get another chance to play their iconic characters, and that’s fine. But Zoolander 2 should have been so much more outrageous than it was.
The sequel follows Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller) and Hansel (Owen Wilson), who must come out of seclusion to investigate a string of pop star murders. Along the way, they must save Zoolander’s estranged son from the clutches of evil fashion mogul Jacobim Mugatu (Will Ferrell). The plot is thin, and it is completely abandoned by the end of the movie anyway. Stiller directs and co-writes, just as he did in 2001’s Zoolander.
Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson’s dumb model shtick is still as funny as it was in the original film, but the overall comedic energy of the sequel is lacking. I wanted more ridiculous “we know we’re just making this sequel to get you to laugh” showmanship moments from the actors. The film could have achieved this with more screen time for delightful Kristen Wiig, who plays Alexanya Atoz, a ludicrous fashion tycoon who looks like she overdosed on botox and self-tanner. Wiig pulls out all the stops with an absurd parody of a European accent. There was a highly enjoyable scene between Ferrell and Wiig in which they share a long kiss, alternately licking each other and yelling into each other’s mouths.
Zoolander 2 is self-aware about all its clichés, which it uses as a successful comedic tool (spy movie-style subtitles identify the shot of a snowy landscape as “extreme northern New Jersey”). As can be expected from a cult comedy sequel, the film leaned hard on cameos, and it worked. Justin Bieber was actually very funny playing a version of himself that snaps an Instagram selfie while in the throes of death. Kiefer Sutherland is hilarious as an overly emotional member of Hansel’s 11-person orgy (after the orgy breaks the news that they’re all pregnant to a befuddled Hansel, the crestfallen Sutherland says, “We thought you would be happy”). Kyle Mooney’s Don Atari is a hipster bro similar to Mooney’s Inside SoCal SNL character, but without the same tight focus, the character didn’t work. Another miss was Fred Armisen as a CGI 11-year-old social media whiz—his character wasn’t funny enough to justify the visual weirdness.
The sequel mocks the fashion world just as successfully as the first one. Penélope Cruz plays a police officer who was forced to retire from swimsuit modeling despite being gorgeous because her big boobs don’t fit into a sample size. The joke deftly skewers the impossible demand that women be both busty and stick-thin. There is a borderline problematic scene in which Benedict Cumberbatch plays a trans model named All. Zoolander and Hansel demand to know All’s gender and the pronoun “hermself” is thrown in by Don Atari, but the scene ends on a better note as All confidently rebuffs them, saying “All is All.” Ultimately, fans of the originally Zoolander won’t be missing much if they skip Zoolander 2.
Zoolander 2 is in theaters February 12.
Image Via Zoolander 2/Facebook
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Madeline Raynor is a New York City-based writer. She is a Blog Editor at BUST. She has written for Splitsider, The Billfold, Death and Taxes, Mashable, Indiewire, and Time Out New York. She loves all things Tina Fey. Word to the wise: her first name is pronounced with a long “i,” like the red-haired girl from France. Follow her on Twitter @madelineraynor_.