Zoolander 2 (2016) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Zoolander 2 (2016)

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Derek Zoolander's dream has collapsed.  He retired from modeling a disgrace, scarred his best friend, indirectly killed his wife, and is estranged from his son.  But Billy Zane arrives with an invitation for a fashion show which may turn everything around for the once iconic inventor of Blue Steel.  Ben Stiller directs Zoolander 2 from a screenplay written by Stiller, John Hamburg, Nick Stoller, and Justin Theroux, and stars Stiller, Owen Wilson, Penélope Cruz, Kristen Wiig, and Will Ferrell.

Reheating the flameTalk to me long enough and you'll find out I'm a painfully sincere person.  Sarcasm doesn't come easily to me, and this sometimes makes online interactions a confusing exercise as I try to figure out if who I'm talking to is being "serious" or not.  Derek Zoolander is, himself, a painfully sincere person.  He's aware of his faults, is insecure about them, but takes comfort in the fact that he's really really really ridiculously good looking.

If this seems a bit too serious way to start a Zoolander 2 review it's because that sincerity is what gives Ben Stiller's best creation longevity.  So long as the world of high fashion requires models of differing ages, sizes, and genders while showing off absurd concepts then Zoolander will have something to respond to.  This second glimpse into the surprisingly intricate web of Zoolander's life is not nearly as funny as the first, but it made me smile often and laugh about as much.

Zoolander 2's opening scene is both a litmus test for how you'll weather the comedy and an example of what makes Stiller's direction so great.  The broad laughs come from professional pretty boy musician Justin Bieber attempting to outrun a hooded assailant.  Bieber fails, and is gunned down with what must be a few hundred bullets as the soundtrack swells and he, finally, falls to the ground, spends another absurd few moments picking the perfect filter for a death selfie, then dying.  The concept alone is amusing, but pumping Bieber's body with a chain gun's worth of bullets is a deliberate callback to his infamous appearance on CSI.

High fashion seems so odd at times it feels beyond satirizing, but Stiller makes it work by flipping every aspect of ironic posturing into overdrive.

High fashion seems so odd at times it feels beyond satirizing, but Stiller makes it work by flipping every aspect of ironic posturing into overdrive.

That's the trick with Stiller's movies.  He starts with something broadly comedic, pushes it a step further, then introduces some layer of meta text which requires outside-the-film knowledge to completely "get" everything.  The bizarre advertisements Zoolander appears in, as a centaur no less, are funny on their own but, when we live in a world where David Lynch got to film PSAs for the city of New York, the ads take on a satiric edge.  Sure, Zoolander looks silly and his acting is laughable, but he's just as serious about being the best darn centaur he can be as Lynch is about terrifying viewers with rats invading New York.

We collectively wish for our betters to provide guidance and insight about what's going on in the world.  If that comes from Zoolander's species-bending absurdity, so be it.  Stiller flings this collective wish back with a gentle twist throughout the best parts of Zoolander 2.  Celebrity cameos litter the screen when Hansel (Owen Wilson) has an existential crisis.  Stiller just brings what's suggested in our advertisements and magazines to life as Hansel is one yell away from a supportive Zoolander, Katy Perry, and (in a funny turn) Neil deGrasse Tyson.

Tyson's appearance comes with some dialogue which wouldn't be out-of-place in a dark drama.  He says, "In an ever-expanding universe, slowly pulling itself apart into nothingness...what use does the question 'who am I' even have?"  We laugh because, hey, these questions are hard to ponder in the grand scheme of things, so isn't it nice to have someone as ridiculously good-looking and partly self-aware as Zoolander to take the bullets for us?  The dialogue continues with a streak of fatalism when Christine Taylor reprises her role as Matilda Jeffries, who tragically died mere moments after the christening of the The Derek Zoolander Center For Kids Who Can't Read Good And Wanna Learn To Do Other Stuff Good Too.  Her guidance to Zoolander to help him move on comes with a blunt truth, "I'm dead, literally nothing bothers me now."

Every syllable from Wiig's mouth and stilted movement from her body is comedy gold in Zoolander 2.

Every syllable from Wiig's mouth and stilted movement from her body is comedy gold in Zoolander 2.

Zoolander's dialogue wrestling with the existential conundrums of existence notwithstanding - the laughs of Zoolander 2 are mighty when they land.  A lot of this credit is due to Kristen Wiig, a comedienne I've never really liked but adored as Alexanya Atoz.  Her delivery decimates the English language by filtering her accent through any number of Eastern European dialects while her mouth seems to be saying something completely different.  When the words come out from the center of some vaginal plum they are comedic catnip to my ears.  Will Ferrell, sadly, sits most of Zoolander 2 out this time but his few scenes with Wiig are a hilarious mess of high-concept fashion and kind of maybe kissing.

Penélope Cruz is a game performer as Zoolander's new love interest and head of the Interpol Fashion Police.  But her involvement is more an excuse to show off Cruz's body and doesn't play into the satire of the rest of Zoolander 2.  There's another potentially troubling part where Benedict Cumberbatch plays a gender-defying model named All.  Considering the level of violence directed at trans people, this skirted the line of offensive.

But, in true Zoolander fashion, All represents an evolution in thinking Zoolander should accept.  By the end of Zoolander 2 we've seen Zoolander become a responsible parent, accept the gender blurring of All, and accept the idea that models don't have to be thin to be really really really ridiculously good looking.  We get there with smart laughs, a few dumb ones, a bucket of celebrity cameos, supportive friends, and an omnisexual orgy which has become part of Hansel's existence.  It made me happy and if someone like Zoolander can change there's no reason we can't.

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Tail - Zoolander 2Zoolander 2 (2016)

Directed by Ben Stiller.
Screenplay written by Ben Stiller, John Hamburg, Nick Stoller, and Justin Theroux.
Starring Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Penélope Cruz, Kristen Wiig, and Will Ferrell.

Posted by Andrew

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