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Review: Zoolander 2

The inherent problem that comes with making a sequel to a popular comedy, is making sure the humor stays fresh while narrative aspects from the original are still maintained. Recent examples such as Dumb and Dumber Too and Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues were met with mixed results for focusing too much on what jokes audiences enjoyed the most and making the dormant focus. Enter Zoolander 2, the return of actor/writer/director Ben Stiller’s iconic male fashion model Derek Zoolander, in a continuation that feels like a stale rehash of the biting satire its predecessor held.

The film opens with a news package, explaining events that have occurred over the past fifteen years, namely that Derek has become a hermit living in northern New Jersey, following the collapse of the Derek Zoolander Center for Kids Who Can’t Read Good (etc), that disfigures Hansel (Owen Wilson) and crushes his love Matilda (Christine Taylor). After being coerced by actor Billy Zane to return to the world of fashion, he is recruited by Interpol fashion police agent Valentina Valencia (Penelope Cruz) to help her solve the mystery surrounding the assassination of several pop stars, as seen in the first sequence of the film with death of Justin Bieber (one of numerous cameos). Along the way, Derek must also reunite with his estranged son Derek Jr. (Cyrus Arnold) and deal with the return of fashion villain Mugatu (Will Ferrell) and the hottest designer on the scene, Alexanya Atoz (Kristen Wiig).

With such an overstuffed and all-over-the-place plot, it comes as a surprise that Zoolander 2 is a near-completely laugh free outing, due to the fact that its script is more preoccupied with referencing gags from fifteen years ago and pointless celebrity appearances above all else. Mainstream comedy has come a long way since 2001, so returning to certain one-liners doesn’t hae the same effect as it once did. The original Zoolander film didn’t try to appeal to popular tastes and only became well-known after receiving cult recognition. Zoolander 2 on the other hand is hellbent on winking at the audience every five minutes, devoid of any shame.

The ensemble of the film leads to mixed results as well. Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson are at the forefront of the proceedings, providing as much dim-witted charm as ever. Their appeal seems to have faded though, in a very ironic sort of way. matching how Derek and Hansel are seen as lame in the fashion world after being out of the spotlight for so long. Will Ferrell enters the story about two-thirds the way through, and still eschews that sense of manic energy that made Mugatu a quoteable villain. Penelope Cruz’s Valentina occupies a subplot that deliberately feels like a parody of The Da Vinci Code, though she does her best with the material provided. And Kristen Wiig has maybe the best role of all, as her Alexanya demonstrates a thick Russian accent that’s makes anything she says difficult to understand, though it works more often than it should.

Zoolander 2 has been a passion project of Stiller’s for many years, so its sad to see what the final outcome encompasses. The sheer, utter laziness of its composure makes it feel like a contractual obligation more than anything, an idea that sounds better on paper than on the big screen. With so much time passed between films, its an idea that should have stayed in development hell. Had the script not focused so much on jokes that audiences liked from the original and tried to be its own thing instead, Zoolander 2 could have been decent at the very least. Instead, what we’re left with is a shallow, uninteresting film that may go down as one of the worst comedy sequels of all time.

[star v=15]