Directed by Ben Stiller. Starring Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Penélope Cruz, Will Ferrell, Kristen Wiig, Fred Armisen, Kyle Mooney, Milla Jovovich, Christine Taylor, Justin Theroux. (2016, PG-13, 102 min.)
REVIEWED By Steve Davis, Fri., Feb. 19, 2016
Zoolander 2 stumbles down the runway like an overdressed supermodel with two left feet – clumsy, embarrassing, spectacularly unfunny. A sequel that nobody asked for, this overproduced vanity project serves no purpose but to cash in on its predecessor’s modest success 15 years ago, frequently quoting the original film as if it were some holy comic text. Four screenwriters (including star/director Ben Stiller) inexplicably receive credit for a script that features jokes so lame they need crutches, a storyline so incomprehensible it needs a translator. Has dumb American film comedy really sunk this low? Or have moviegoers become so gullible they can’t see that the emperor has no clothes? (In this case, designer label.) Stiller and Owen Wilson, reprising their roles as the world’s most vacuous male fashionistas, dim-bulb Derek Zoolander and his ex-rival Hansel respectively, exert little effort here. There’s no satirical edge to their performances. An uninspired Stiller only half-purses his lips and rarely bothers to sink his cheekbones, while a somnambulistic Wilson plays it the same way he plays every other role. Between the two of them, they can barely strike a pose.
The movie is as lifeless as a mannequin until Ferrell appears near the end as the absurdly coiffed villain Jacobim Mugatu. (Now there’s a guy who knows funny.) The mad-hatter energy he brings to the enervated proceedings perks things up considerably, but it’s too little, too late. Lacking anything else to offer, Zoolander 2 fills the void with a succession of cameos, walk-ons, and bit parts featuring a mind-boggling array of actors and other personalities, ranging from Willie Nelson to Justin Bieber to Fred Armisen to Sting to Anna Wintour to Marc Jacobs to Susan Sarandon to Katy Perry to Neil deGrasse Tyson. The list goes on and on and on. The explosion of pop-up appearances is calculated to distract you from the utter emptiness of the movie itself. Only Cumberbatch’s hilarious turn as the genderless performance model All (“He’s asking if you have a hot dog or a bun?”) and Wiig’s weirded performance as the bizarrely outfitted Alexanya Atoz (she’s a glammed-up version of Donatella V.) merit mention. Both are brilliantly conceived but unaccountably underused. They say that in fashion, one day you’re in and the next you’re out. So true, so true. For proof, you only need to look at Zoolander 2.