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such a nasty woman | by maryann johanson

Zoolander 2 movie review: fashionably foolish

by MaryAnn Johanson

Zoolander 2 green light

A tad dated and scattershot, but the messy package is inventively absurd… and unlike many Hollywood comedies, able to carry that absurdity to a silly end.
I’m “biast” (pro): nothing

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

I barely remember Zoolander — it was 15 years ago, after all, and I haven’t seen it since — so I can’t exactly say if I’m surprised or not that I got a big kick out of Z2. It’s true that this overdue sequel feels a tad dated: its humor is at its best when it is snarking about how out of touch has-been 1990s supermodels Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller: While We’re Young) and Hansel (Owen Wilson: No Escape) are with 2016’s fads and fashions as they come out of reclusive retirement in a hoped-for comeback. One joke with massive potential to painfully backfire, for instance, about a gender-indeterminate model, All, played by the cisgender hetero Benedict Cumberbatch (Black Mass), works because it doesn’t hold up hir fluidity for ridicule but rather Derek and Hansel’s clueless and unsophisticated mystification about All. Some mid-20-teens nonsense gets a smack — the crack about “farm-to-table wifi” in a boutique hotel is a win — but mostly Z2 is a parody thriller that’s like The Exorcist via Dan Brown, with a little bit of The Silence of the Lambs thrown in; the skeleton of this story might have been collecting dust for years. Still, there’s a certain cleverness in how the screenwriters — Stiller (who also directs), Justin Theroux (who also appears briefly), Nicholas Stoller (Sex Tape), and John Hamburg (Little Fockers) — take advantage of the Rome setting to combine its mystique in the realms of both fashion and religion. And if there is a scattershot quality to the melange of celebrity cameos, mock-epic grandeur, Kristin Wiig’s (The Martian) outrageously weird fashion designer, and the not quite fully realized spy spoof via Penelope Cruz’s (The Counsellor) endearingly exuberant agent from Interpol’s “global fashion division,” the whole messy package is endlessly and inventively absurd. And unlike so many Hollywood comedies of recent vintage, it maintains that absurdity to the end, never dredging up phony sentimentality because it’s afraid — or worse, doesn’t know how — to follow its silliness through to an even sillier end. I laughed a lot, which is more than I can say about most of what is sold to us as comedy.

green light 3.5 stars

Zoolander 2 (2016)
US/Canada release date: Feb 12 2016 | UK release date: Feb 12 2016

MPAA: rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content, a scene of exaggerated violence, and brief strong lanaguage
BBFC: rated 12A (moderate violence, sex references, infrequent strong language)

viewed at a semipublic screening with an audience of critics and ordinary moviegoers

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, you might want to reconsider.

  • Matt Clayton

    I tried watching Z2 and I gave up 10 minutes in. For me, the humor felt forced and unfunny. There’s a difference between stupid but funny and stupid and unfunny.

    It felt like “Anchorman 2” in that respect. Mining the same jokes, too many cameos and no real reason for it to exist- – apart from the first getting a rabid following on DVD.

  • You walked out of a movie after only 10 minutes? Did you get a refund?

  • Matt Clayton

    I saw it for free (I work at a smaller theater chain). If a movie’s not engaging me for the first 10-15 minutes, I tend to leave.

  • rwmcgee

    That is such a sad, but accurate, comment on American sensibilities.

  • Bluejay

    Meaning what?

  • LorinGeitner

    I agree with you: I remember the original fondly, but also enjoyed this one as well.

    I laughed because it was so dumb and so silly.

    Then I was quietly appalled at myself for having such poor taste that I had laughed at something so silly, and so dumb.

    Then I laughed at myself for taking myself so seriously over such silly, dumb, fun.

    Its dumb, its silly, and the makers are intelligent enough to _know_ it is, and are intelligent enough to have fun with it that only intelligent people can do so.

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