Words by: Jack Dawson
Comedies, especially good comedies, are the hardest kind of film to review. Bad films are the easiest thing in the world to write about, since their poor quality usually provides the material on its own, good films can still provide some material if you know where to look. But if a Comedy is genuinely funny, you can’t discuss any of the jokes. Doing that ruins the surprise, ruins the entire point of seeing the movie.
So take it from me now, Zoolander 2 (or Zoolander No. 2, or 2oolander, this film has that many alternate titles) is a funny film. It’s not as surprising as the first film, but it is just as funny in its own way, and significantly more ambitious. Go watch it.
It’s been more than ten years since the events of the first Zoolander film, and Derek is living as a recluse (or as he puts it, a ‘Hermit-Crab’). Life has gone downhill, because the law of lazy Hollywood sequels (which this film is a satire of rather than a straight example of) requires that the main character be brought down so they can rise up to their previous level of prestige. And then a chance at redemption presents itself in the form of an invitation to the most prestigious fashion show in the world. Little does Derek Zoolander know, that a nefarious plot years in the making is unfolding before him.
That plot summary was perhaps the blandest I’ve ever written, but it’s by necessity. A lot of the laughs in this film elicit laughs because of how surprising they are, much in the same way that the first film’s best laughs were. Derek Zoolander raging at the model Centre for Kids Who Want To Learn How To Read Good being too small for any students is even more hysterical because it comes out of nowhere. And so I want to give the audience for this new film the same chance.
Speaking of surprises, it should be noted that part of the reason the first film is so beloved is because it was so unexpected when it came out. A comedy about the super modelling industry by Ben Stiller was strange enough, but the descent into a parody of The Manchurian Candidate elevated the film into an absurdist masterpiece.
Zoolander 2 can’t be as surprising, because if you’re at all familiar with the first film, you’ll have an idea of what to expect. You know that ‘Jitterbug’ will play at some point, that Billy Zane will be mentioned, and that a British Pop Star will show up to cameo. But Zoolander 2 doubles down on the jokes, and makes a sincere effort to be bigger and better than the first film, and it mostly succeeds.
And you should have the original Zoolander on your mind, because knowledge of the first film is essential to understanding the plot of the sequel. Flashbacks are provided were appropriate, but for maximum investment you need to be familiar (and fond) of the first film.
That in itself makes Zoolander 2 weaker than the first film, but longtime fans will enjoy the fanservice on display. And it is noteworthy that nearly the entire original cast does return in this film, including Will Ferrell as Jacobi Mugatu, who isn’t quite as entertaining this time around.
And while we’re talking problems, there are a few moments where Zoolander 2 stumbles. Random Celebrity Cameos are part of the Zoolander formula, but do wear thin on occasion. There’s a particularly egregious scene towards the end of the film where a group of fashion industry personalities deliver one-liners which are murdered in the crib by the awkward pauses left after each delivery, supposedly to give people a chance to laugh.
No one laughs.
That and there’s a joke romantic pairing between one of the fictional characters and a real life figure which actually crosses the line into ‘Not-Okay’. Not offensive, not towing the line, just straight up ‘Not-Okay’ that really drags down an otherwise fun ending.
Zoolander 2 is a rather tightly choreographed mess of a film, and I salute it. It’s one thing to have an unfocused movie that refuses to focus its attention on any one theme or story, but a film that can meander anywhere it chooses and keep the audience laughing with every single joke is a wonder to behold. I’m not sure that there needs to be another sequel, it doesn’t seem like there’s anywhere else for the characters to go, but I’m glad we got this one.
It is, in short, a really, really, really, ridiculously fun movie.