Zoolander 2 movie review: fashionably foolish

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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.

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Matt Clayton
Matt Clayton
Sat, Feb 13, 2016 1:11am

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.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Matt Clayton
Sat, Feb 13, 2016 10:51am

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

Matt Clayton
Matt Clayton
reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Sat, Feb 13, 2016 2:07pm

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.

reply to  Matt Clayton
Mon, Feb 15, 2016 7:51am

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

reply to  rwmcgee
Mon, Feb 15, 2016 12:57pm

Meaning what?

Mon, Jun 06, 2016 11:07pm

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.

Sun, Oct 24, 2021 11:57pm

The original was kind of funny, but after 16 years if this Bondian spoof is the best they could churn out for a sequel, hang it up