Fifteen years after the events of Zoolander, and after the Derek Zoolander Centre for Kids Who Can’t Read Good and Wanna Learn To Do Other Stuff Good Too collapsed, killing Zoolander’s wife Matilda (Christine Taylor) and disfiguring Hansel, Derek (Ben Stiller) is lured out of retirement with a chance to be a superstar again, but soon discovers that he is at the centre of a plot that is killing off the world’s most beautiful people.
It is hard to believe that it has been 15 years since the first Zoolander film which, interestingly enough, tanked at the US box office, but has since become a beloved cult film. This time out, Hansel and Zoolander are out to prove that they are not over the hill, but it seems that the films Zoolander influenced since its release have in turn influenced the sequel, and this is not necessarily a good thing.
Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson are back in their roles as Zoolander and Hansel, and are joined by familiar faces Will Ferrell as Mugatu, Justin Theroux as Evil DJ and Billy Zane. The new members of the cast include Penelope Cruz as Fashion Interpol Agent Valentina, Benedict Cumberbatch as All, Kristen Wiig as Alexanya Atoz and Cyrus Arnold as Derek Zoolander Jr. Cameos abound – even more than the first film – with Ariana Grande, Demi Lovato, Sting, Anna Wintour, Kate Moss, Susan Boyle, Katy Perry, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Tommy Hilfiger and Alexander and Vera Wang turning up. As well as these, Kiefer Sutherland turns up as a member of Hansel’s group relationship, Justin Bieber gets shot multiple times and Fred Armisen plays an 11 year old child, with his head weirdly super imposed onto a small body.
Justin Theroux, Ben Stiller, Nicholas Stoller and John Hamburg’s screenplay attempts to send up The DaVinci Code while being a spy spoof film at the same time, which leads to a weird and un-Zoolander like film. The first Zoolander film was a film about conspiracy theories and whispers that sent up the fashion industry even as it paid tribute to it, but there is precious little modelling going on here. Instead the cast are caught up with a personal plot involving Zoolander’s son; one that makes literally no sense by the end of the film. As well as this, the film seems too caught up in callbacks to the first film – and not always the right ones – to create new jokes and instead relies on the old ones.
As director, Ben Stiller keeps the film moving at a decent pace, but can’t make up for the fact that this film is not as smart as the one that went before, and is even perhaps as daft as its lead character. The performances are in keeping with the feel of the first film, but there are times when the dialogue feels stilted and forced, and with characters dropping in and out of the film seemingly at will, the cameos and small roles begin to make the film feel cluttered and messy.
In all, Zoolander 2 is not a worthy follow up to the beloved and oft-quoted first film. Relying too much on callbacks and cameos sucks the originality out of the film, as does a script that by the end of the film doesn’t make any sense. There are a couple of giggles to be had, but Zoolander 2 is too self conscious and forced to match the unexpected brilliance of the first film.