Review: Zoolander 2

 

Making a comedy sequel is difficult. They’re sometimes a box office success, often entertaining, but rarely as funny as the first.

There’s another category that Zoolander 2 fits in – disastrous.

Fifteen years after Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller) saved the Vice President of Malaysia from Mugatu (Will Ferrell), he’s back! This time, Zoolander is in living in seclusion after the death of his wife and losing his son to child protective services. The same accident that killed his wife also disfigured Hansel (Owen Wilson) and the two haven’t spoken since.

After the death of multiple celebrities, Interpol’s fashion division calls on Zoolander to help them find who’s behind the murders. In exchange, they offer to help Zoolander find his son. It’s not long before everyone realizes Zoolander isn’t just helping solve the murders, he’s also a target.

The opening for Zoolander 2 is actually funny and entertaining. It’s an over-the-top death of Justin Beiber followed by a recap of news coverage showing what’s happened to the characters over the past 15 years. Unfortunately, that’s about where the laughs stop.

The rest of the film deals with Zoolander trying to reconnect with his son, Hansel and his “orgy” family, and trying to figure out who’s behind everything.  There are a few chuckles here and there, but most of the jokes fall flat.

Fifteen years is a little too long between comedies. What worked in the early 2000 doesn’t’ necessarily work now. Not to mention gags like Zoolander making fun of his fat son, his son’s hatred and disrespect towards his father, and Bennedict Cummberbatch’s offensive cameo as a maybe transgender or maybe not model named All come across as distasteful. This isn’t to say jokes about those subjects can’t be made, but when they’re not well crafted jokes the only thing they can do is offend.

Watching Stiller give 100% in his performance was like watching your favorite comedian bomb jokes over-and-over and have no idea people aren’t laughing. There are jokes and gags that should work, and should be hysterical, yet they miss and miss by a wide margin.

The biggest issue with Zoolander 2 is it not having any real direction. The film doesn’t know what it wants to be. Is it a straightforward comedy? Is it satire? Is it, “Hey! Remember when we were funny?”.  It’s not too long into Zoolander’s ridiculous story before it’s apparent the movie is more The Hangover 3 than Rush Hour 2. The celebrity cameos come pouring in scene after scene. They don’t add anything to the plot, they mostly act as human product placement.

Zoolander 2 is as lazy as it is uninventive and sad. The people involved are funny but none of their funny makes it way onscreen.  Hopefully this is the end of a franchise and not the end of Ben Stiller comedies.

Grade: D

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