Movie Review: "Zoolander 2"

There have been almost 15 years between “Zoolander” films, with the first releasing in late September of 2001 and the second hitting theaters this week. Put another way, there have been not one, not two, but three “Star Wars” films released between “Zoolander” movies. Three.

I will be the first to admit it, I only thought the original “Zoolander” was okay. It had some funny moments, but I never found it to be a laugh out loud riot. I can tell you then with no small amount of surprise that I did indeed laugh repeatedly during the sequel, “Zoolander 2.” In fact, I laughed far more at the sequel than I did the original.

The actual desire to do a new movie all by itself seems like a weird choice. Why? Why go back to that well? Didn’t the first film offer a happy ending and the male model of the title retiring? Wasn’t he too old then? Wasn’t that the point? If Derek Zoolander is 15 years older here and he was too old then, he’s got to be way past Danny Glover’s “I’m getting too old for this sh*t” moments from the “Lethal Weapon” films.

Do not fear, in the first few minutes of the film “Zoolander 2” clears all that up with a not so clever device that is well deployed – we watch news clips (alongside Penelope Cruz’s Valentina Valencia, a member of Interpol’s Global Fashion Division) of what happened to Derek Zoolander from 2001 through his deciding to become a “hermit crab” as his life continued to go downhill.

News clips are a tried and true technique to catch up viewers on a gap in time and here they are stitched together brilliantly. It isn’t just that each individual catastrophe that has befallen Derek since we last saw him is funny, it’s that they’re funny and still remain true to that character and his stupidity.

All of “Zoolander 2” is that way, it’s one ridiculous thing after the next. Derek and Hansel (Owen Wilson) coming out of retirement is ridiculous. The folks running the fashion industry now, Alexanya Atoz (Kristen Wiig) and Don Atari (Kyle Mooney) are ridiculous. The number of cameos are ridiculous. On and on it goes, one ridiculous moment after the next. But they don’t just work, they work brilliantly.

Where others see a negative in the ridiculousness of it all, I see a positive. Last time out Derek was manipulated into subconsciously attempting to kill the Malaysian Prime Minister by Jacobim Mugatu (Will Ferrell) who wanted to still use child labor in creating his clothes. Any attempt to go less silly would have been a grave error, and so they don’t. There are conspiracies in “Zoolander 2” and there are weird orgy moments with Kiefer Sutherland (because why not) and Derek wanting to reunite with his son (despite his being “plus-size”) and a new nefarious plot (obviously) and the return of Derek’s tiny cell phone (hooray) and so much more.

There are, as you might surmise, a number of jokes in “Zoolander 2” that fall flat (do we need a Susan Boyle joke?), but the thing is that there’s always another joke around the corner and it’s generally a better one. There is always another cameo and another moment that you’re going to want to freeze-frame when you watch at home (because there’s a cameo beyond that other cameo you’re going to want to look for). Over the course of the film, “Zoolander 2” just piles it on. More jokes. More stupidity. More ridiculousness. More funny. And I hate trying to dissect it all here because it’s just something you have to watch to believe (I am reminded of a “Seinfeld” in which Elaine tries to get an answer to the meaning of a cartoon in “The New Yorker”).

It seems impossible to think that if you liked the first “Zoolander” you won’t like (or possibly love) this one. It may be as shallow as the male models it follows, but it’s all to good effect, utterly harmless, and a more than diverting way to spend the evening.  There may not be a ton of huge belly laughs, but there is a relatively constant stream of chuckles.

In short, it is a perfect follow-up to the original film. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t looking forward to seeing it again to find out what I missed the first time through.

photo credit: Paramount Pictures

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