Ben Stiller directs and stars in this unworthy sequel to the fashion satire
‘It’s all too confusing!’ protests disgraced male model Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller) as Zoolander 2 takes one of many asinine turns. You’ll know how he feels after watching this narratively chaotic sequel, whose approach is too scattershot to trouble its targets. It follows 2001’s modestly successful fashion satire, which only received middling notices at the time, but whose well-executed silliness has attracted great affection with age.
A series of news bulletins fill us in on Derek’s intervening ignominy: the hasty demise of his centre for ‘kids who can’t read good’, the death of his wife Matilda (Christine Taylor) in the building’s structural collapse, and the incompetent parenting which led to his son being taken away. When we’re reintroduced to him he’s living as a ‘hermit crab’ in a cabin in the wilds of ‘Extreme Northern New Jersey’. Both Derek and his ‘permanently disfigured’ former rival Hansel (Owen Wilson) are drawn into a Rome-based intrigue when they’re summoned to appear in a fashion show, later finding that they hold the key to the murder of several pop stars – crimes being investigated by Valentina (Penélope Cruz), part of Interpol’s Global Fashion Division.
Kristen Wiig has the thankless task of performing one long (unfunny) visual gag as a leathery, ludicrous Donatella Versace-alike designer. The lack of an interesting new angle and the far-from-razor-sharp script means Stiller’s dimwit routine feels stretched this time round and even his usually reliable rapport with Wilson seems deflated.
As a director, Stiller attempts to dazzle by employing the smoke-and-mirrors school of filmmaking – fabulous locations, a thunderously dramatic score, endless cameos, boundless insanity – but Derek himself would be able to discern that it’s merely a desperate distraction, glossing over the movie’s numerous flaws. Zoolander 2 is not entirely without merit and the widely advertised return of Mugatu (Will Ferrell) comes as a blessed relief at the eleventh-hour, although even this proves patchy. By then anyway it’s a case of too little too late, for a comedy with this few laughs, that squanders this much talent, is a sad thing indeed.
General release from Fri 12 Feb.