Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson return in Zoolander 2 – a sequel that feels more like a repeat.
The much-quoted Zoolander arrived on screens 15 years ago and has steadily built a cult audience thanks to DVD and TV showings. Fast forward to 2016 and the sequel opens with Derek Zoolander (a youthful Ben Stiller) and Hansel (an ageing Owen Wilson), both in hiding. Following a freak accident that caused the death of his wife, Derek is living like a ‘hermit crab’ (his words) and Hansel is seeking solace in the desert after the accident left him with a slightly grazed cheekbone that he doesn’t want the fashion world to see. Business as usual, then.
The plot, if it can be called that, starts when the world’s most-attractive pop stars are murdered. Justin Bieber, Demi Lovato, even Bruce Springsteen, are all killed – but not before they each take a final photo to be shared on social media. For reasons that seem, at the very best, tenuous, Derek is the only person who can stop the senseless killings. Along with Hansel, he is taken to Rome and meets ‘fashion police’ Interpol agent Valentina (Penélope Cruz), who intends to foil the criminals.
Kristen Wiig, who plays the bizarre Alexanya Atoz, is wildly underused but steals the scenes she is in. Will Ferrell returns as the terrifically unstable Mugatu and plays him with Ferrell’s usual understatement. The churn of characters is immense, with seemingly hundreds of celebrity cameos. Cameo highlights include Susan Boyle, Sting and the briefest of appearances from John Malkovich. Many of the cameo appearances fall flat though and rely on the audience being amused by celebrities just being themselves. It turns out celebs really aren’t that funny and if you’re not into celebrity culture, you’re unlikely to recognise most of them anyway.
Stiller, who once again directed and wrote the script, packs the film full of familiar jokes; for fans of the 2001 film, this will feel as comforting as a warm blanket on a cold day. For those who didn’t get the first outing, it’ll feel more like getting an unwelcome hug from a wet dog.
Zoolander 2 takes a while to get going, with the first half hour lacking any attempts at real humour; it’s an underwhelming start that sets the pace for the rest of this lacklustre, mistimed sequel. It limps along with very little plot, an incredible amount of star cameos and lots of really stupid jokes. If this goes on to build a devoted cult following, or sparks a third film for the franchise, there’s something wrong with the world.