Alex Casey is a staff writer for New Zealand pop culture-obsessed website The Spinoff and columnist for the NZ Herald.

Alex Casey: Zoolander 2

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Ben Stiller as Derek Zoolander, from left, Owen Wilson as Hansel and Penelope Cruz as Valentina Valencia in a scene from the film.
Ben Stiller as Derek Zoolander, from left, Owen Wilson as Hansel and Penelope Cruz as Valentina Valencia in a scene from the film.

It has taken me a while to process things in the aftermath of Zoolander 2. It has been a grieving of sorts, a wider mourning for what feels like the slow, grinding death of the modern comedy sequel. I might as well have worn a black mesh veil to Anchorman 2, and swayed a lighter back and forth during Dumb and Dumber To. Zoolander 2 required a gilded coffin and a 21-gun salute.

Why do these comedy hits always insist on going back to the well? Why make a sequel 15 years after the original? Zoolander was a biting satire on the vacuous, lavish world of the early-2000s fashion scene.

It had enough celebrity cameos to satisfy without bragging, and enough good jokes to make us forget about the bad. It managed to be smart, dumb, fantastical and all-too-real, and created the most recognisable facial expression of the millennium.

The sequel mostly felt like when your Dad tells a gag over dinner that goes pretty well, then spends the rest of the night embellishing it to reach that same high.

I laughed - sometimes too much - but it was a confused, embarrassed laugh. And it was a lone chuckle in a pin-drop silent cinema.

In the film we meet a washed-up, bearded Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller) living as a "hermit crab" after accidentally killing his wife and losing his son. He gets back on the modelling wagon, with the help of Owen Wilson's Hansel, to try to prove he can provide as a father.

Will Ferrell reprises his role as Mugatu in Zoolander 2.
Will Ferrell reprises his role as Mugatu in Zoolander 2.

Along the way they encounter an Interpol agent played by Penelope Cruz, up-and-coming "it" boy Don Atari (played by the star of the show Kyle Mooney), a melted Donatella Versace version of Kristen Wiig and Fred Armisen CGI-ed on to the body of a child. Oh, and it wouldn't be complete without Will Ferrell.

The plot becomes increasingly absurd as it becomes a spy caper that would make Austin Powers turn up his nose. There are ritual sacrifices, prune juice attacks and Susan Sarandon making a Rocky Horror call back that was about as successful as the forced return of flared jeans last year.

Top that off with a slew of fashion royalty lending their atrocious acting chops and you've got what I am comfortably calling the worst film of the year so far.

Perhaps it is that the culture in question has evolved, providing what is surely more fruit for the picking in terms of Instagram fame, selfie sticks and ongoing conversations about cultural appropriation in fashion. Why did Zoolander 2 barely touch any of this? Was it laziness, or just that people involved might not be as au fait with what the orange mocha frappuccinos of 2016 might be?

The problem with these new comedy sequels is that they feel uncomfortably forced. Sometimes it's better to not go back. Sometimes it's better to just leave things exactly where they are.

- Spy.co.nz

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Alex Casey is a staff writer for New Zealand pop culture-obsessed website The Spinoff and columnist for the NZ Herald.

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