Really Really Ridiculously Not Funny
The greatest sin a comedy can commit is being unfunny. Sadly, Zoolander 2 commits this sin. While the original, much like Stiller’s Tropic Thunder, caught lightning in a bottle, Zoolander 2 lacks laughs and tries to get by on celebrity cameos where the cameo is the punchline, and a series of callbacks to the superior first film. There’s very little that’s new or original to sink your teeth into.
The story, in particular, is bad. Ostensibly about former supermodel Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller) attempting to reunite with his estranged son, it doesn’t take long for the plot to take a wrong turn into the supernatural. When Interpol fashion police secret agent Melanie Valentina played by Penélope Cruz uttered the words ‘fountain of youth’, I began to wonder if the filmmakers took a little too much inspiration from Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides – the one where Penélope Cruz searches for the fountain of youth.
Suffice to say there’s a prophecy about a chosen one and ritual sacrifice involved, and it just falls flat. The film’s best moments come towards the very end, when returning villain Mugatu (Will Ferrell) finally enters the picture and bemoans the stupidity of the story’s characters. Finally, I thought, someone who agrees with me! Even Ferrell verges on pantomime however, at one point wearing a clown suit and encouraging Zoolander’s son to down some lard – and his introduction sidelines Kristen Wiig’s impossible-to-understand yet hilarious fashionista Alexanya Atoz (one of only a few bright sparks).
The movie works best when it’s recognising its own stupidity and when it pokes fun at contemporary fashion, but it doesn’t do this nearly often enough. Its core cast (Stiller, Owen, Cruz and Ferrell) are good in their roles and Stiller still pulls off the iconic look, but at the end of the day the jokes rarely hit home – Zoolander 2 misses the dumb but clever charm of the original cult classic. It’s not clever, just dumb.