Sometimes a movie does so exceedingly well; a sequel is greenlit almost immediately the next day, and sometimes, a movie does moderately well and people spent years and years trying to make the sequel…even though it ends up taking 15 years to do it. The problem is it’s not always easy to get a sequel on the fast track. Films get delayed for all sorts of reasons and sometimes when you finally sort all those reasons out and get the sequel made, no one really cares. That’s what happened to “The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor”, it surprisingly didn’t happen with “Mad Max: Fury Road”, which leads us to our middle ground movie: “Zoolander 2.” It took star, writer and director; Ben Stiller, 15 years to get this goofy sequel off the ground, was it worth the wait? Let’s stumble down the model runway and find out.
After abandoning their model careers and exiling themselves from society, Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller) and Hansel (Owen Wilson) are lured to Rome and back into the world of modeling by CIA agent Valentina (Penelope Cruz). Society’s most beautiful people are being taken out and Zoolander and Hansel are the only idiots stupid enough to unravel this modeling murder mystery. Everything about this movie is stupid; everything about the original movie is stupid so already…were off to a good start. “Zoolander 2” does what most films do in their sequels: up the ante, they try to top what the first film did and be bigger, better and larger than life. In that regard, “Z2” definitely makes things more ridiculous and goofy than before. Ritual sacrifices to fashion gods, breast flotation devices and the strangest cameos you’ve never seen.
Watching this film does beg the question why we needed it now instead of 15 years ago. Stiller and Wilson have been out of the public eye for quite a while, it’s obvious they love playing these characters and they’re having a blast doing what they THINK is funny. But sometimes the humor just feels like it’s striking a mark that has already faded. Beiber getting riddled with bullets strikes some modern day funny bones, sure, but not everything works like it did with the first film. Will Ferrell coming back as Mugatu was desperately needed and I am SO glad it was because every scene he was in just made things the right kind of ridiculous this movie needed. He is crazy, bug eyed and anchors the movie in the right direction you want it to go in.
I actually love how it incorporates the most asinine elements like mystical rituals and prophecies, it makes no sense but it’s big, it’s grand and it’s so idiotic it’s amazingly fun. Stiller and Wilson generate an enthusiasm for these roles that is hard to ignore. I always love it when an actor is having a blast in the movie; even if the movie sucks because their energy and passion for these roles becomes infectious and you find yourself enjoying it almost as much as they do. The cameos are frequent and bizarre but they always earn a laugh, especially Benedict Cumberbatch who leaves a brief but memorable appearance in the film. Besides the humor feeling dated or off, one cast member feels totally out of place in both performance and purpose: Penelope Cruz.
Much like Stiller and Wilson, she’s been out of the spotlight for a while and being played up as the sexy femme fatale as if it’s a given feels about as dated as some of the physical comedy. This is a movie that wanted to be made when people wanted it: 15 years ago. Half the humor works and can appease all audiences and the other half of the humor plays off old fans or old expectations from the first film. “Zoolander 2” is a movie that works some of the time, most of the time but not all of the time like it thinks it does. It’s a lot like modeling; some looks great while others fall flat. Kristen Wiig and Will Ferrell, they nail it; Penelope Cruz…not so much. I guess on one level one could say that for all the time it took to get this movie made and put out, it should have been a lot better; much like people say with big budgeted flops like “Waterworld.”
However, I’m quite glad this movie was made because for all its fumbles and late comings, I got loads of laughs out of this intentionally brain damaged movie. It’s a project Stiller, Wilson and Ferrell were passionate about making a reality and even if it came late and a little more brain damaged then we thought it’d be; it’s still an enjoyable arrival I was glad I took part of…maybe next time don’t wait 15 years though, okay?
I give “Zoolander 2” 2 and ½ stars out of 4.
Review by Rob Jefchak