Former male models, Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller) and Hansel (Owen Wilson), are drawn back into the world of fashion by Interpol agent Valentina (Penélope Cruz) in order to stop a conspiracy to kill the world’s most beautiful people.
Despite taking only $60 million from the worldwide box office on its initial release in 2001, Ben Stiller’s Zoolander became one the most loved comedies of the 2000s. Its eccentric humour, memorable cameos and sharp satire garnered the film a large cult following and established its place in popular culture. Unfortunately, this long-awaited sequel fails to recapture the zest of its predecessor, as its lack of originality and weak script make for an underwhelming experience. At $50 million, Zoolander 2’s budget is almost double that of the original film. This is evident from the outset, as the past fifteen years of Derek’s life are displayed in a sleek title sequence. While the increased budget does include the glamorous setting of Rome, it cannot compensate for a bloated plot and tired script.
However, the film does introduce a number of new characters, including Kristen Wiig in an underwritten role as Alexanya Atoz (an ally of Will Ferrell’s Mugatu) and Kyle Mooney as fellow designer, Don Atari. Wiig’s appearance and accent provide some humour, though Don Atari is an early contender for 2016’s most irritating character. Both are indicative of the script’s failings, Atoz’s presence becomes gratuitous once Mugatu enters proceedings, while the character of Don Atari embodies the humour’s lack of relevance.
"Will Ferrell is underused, but entertainingly bombastic as he returns to the role of Mugatu"
Stiller and Wilson do their best with the limited material, but as outsiders to the contemporary fashion industry, Derek and Hansel lose the satirical edge of their previous incarnations. Rather than their stupidity being the sardonic humour’s focal point, they are resorted to fish-out-of-water comedy, as they come to terms with the changing nature of fashion. This largely falls flat, particularly during their scene with All, Benedict Cumberbatch’s gender-fluid supermodel, which is handled clumsily and reinforces the failings of the film’s satire.
On a more positive note, Will Ferrell is underused, but entertainingly bombastic as he returns to the role of Mugatu. Enjoying the film’s best dialogue, he shines in a closing scene that includes many of the world’s leading fashion tycoons – all wishing to appear in on the film’s joke. Ferrell’s performance and the abundance of celebrity cameos are its saving graces. While none reach the heights of David Bowie’s appearance in the first film, the unexpected situations in which some of the world’s biggest stars are found, deliver a number of laughs.
While there are moments to be enjoyed, long periods without laughter and an over-reliance on jokes from the original film mean that Zoolander 2 fails to beat the comedy sequel curse. Derek and Hansel are not quite so hot right now.
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