“Zoolander 2” is funnier than any terrible movie has any right to be.
A “high concept comedy” from the days when those were a thing, it’s basically a cacophony of cameos and random sight gags hurled at the viewer in a tsunami of haute couture hype.
But in the 15 years since the original film opened, did OK and then became a cable fixture in the pop culture conversation, nobody’s gotten smarter.
Oh yeah. The stupid is strong with this one.
Zoopermodel Derek Zoolander’s dream of a school for beautiful idiots like him, “The Derek Zoolander School for Kids who Can’t Read Good and Want to Do Other Stuff Good Too,” died, along with his wife, when the building collapsed. That was years ago.
A TV news montage, featuring reports from Katie Couric, Jane Pauley, Matt Lauer and yes, Jim Lehrer, catches us up on where Derek (Ben Stiller) and Hansel (Owen Wilson) have been these past fifteen years.
Derek’s been living “as a hermit crab” in the snowy Alps of “extremely northern New Jersey.” Hansel’s been holed up in the desert of Malibu, settled down with an orgy (Kiefer Sutherland included) that went on too long.
But somebody is killing the world’s pop stars — Springsteen, Usher, Madonna, and most tragically — Justin Bieber.
Bieber’s death? On camera, and it gets maybe the biggest laugh of the movie.
Derek and Hansel are summoned from retirement and reluctantly re-united by Interpol’s Fashion Police (Penelope Cruz), because the singers all died leaving selfies with one of Derek’s trademark poses. No, not “Blue Steel.”
A fashion gargoyle/maven played with “Dune” makeup and multi-cultural accent by Kristen Wiig puts Derek and Hansel back on the runways of Rome. But this is the era of polysexuals like “All,” played with vapid femininity by Benedict Cumberbatch. All appeals to both sexes, and no sexes.
“All is all,” he/she says. All has married himself/herself because “Mono marriage is finally legal in Italy.”
Derek has to reconnect with the “fat kid” (Cyrus Arnold) child services took from him years earlier and visit his nemesis (Will Ferrell) in prison. Hansel seeks the counsel of his idol, Sting. Yeah, THAT Sting.
None of this adds up to anything at all. Even All is abandoned after one scene. We giggle when this or that cameo (Christina Hendricks, Willie Nelson, Neil deGrasse Tyson) pops up. And groan at everything Derek and Hansel still cannot figure out.
“I miss not knowing things with you.”
Truthfully, this genre died with Mike Myers. Who isn’t dead, unless you mean cinematically. Will Ferrell is the last guy who could pull something like this off, and “Zoolander 2” gets a much-needed kick in the pants when he shows up. Big and broad and outlandish and still able to riff improved improvised laughs on the set, he’s still got his fastball.
Stiller? He can still do the vapid/vain thing. But he’s outgrown this genre of comedy, and even if he and Wilson are still game to try it, they’re both too late getting around to this sequel that the world sort of demanded — ten years ago.
“Zoolander 2” hasn’t the bite, the edge, the comic anger or sensibility to work in a post-“Hangover” — post Kardashian world. It just has a famous star and director filling the screen with a lot of famous friends. Or acquaintances. And that’s not all that funny.
MPAA Rating:PG-13 for crude and sexual content, a scene of exaggerated violence, and brief strong language
Cast: Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Penelope Cruz, Will Ferrell, Billy Zane
Credits: Directed by Ben Stiller, script by Ben Stiller, Justin Theroux, Nicholas Stoller, John Hamburg. A Paramount release.
Running time: 1:40