Hansel might still be hot right now, fifteen years after the first movie, but not even his angelic face and stunningly good looks are enough to save this movie from being a massive disappointment. On paper, this sounded pretty promising. The original movie has gained a very large cult following, Ben Stiller is still a pretty big brand name with number of hit movies under his belt, Will Ferrell has likewise gathered a large fanbase for himself in the past decade, and people still like Owen Wilson, don’t they? If anything, that failed suicide attempt just made him more cute and adorable, right? Considering all this, the idea of reviving Derek Zoolander and Blue Steel for another spin around the block after a long hiatus might have been just what the doctor ordered for this cold winter. But somewhere along the way, something went horribly wrong, and we ended up with… this…. thing. The thing that makes Zoolander 2 so frustrating to talk about is the fact that you can’t help but to draw comparisons to the first movie, and that is exactly what sinks it. It lacks the originality to be its own thing and feels the need to ride on the coattails of its predecessor, and superior film parent.The sad fact of the matter is that the original Zoolander was such a unique and funny movie that it simply set the bar so high that nothing but nigh perfection could even hope to come close to being as satisfying, and unfortunately to all parties involved, Zoolander 2 is far from being perfect, even in small doses.
The main reason Zoolander 2 fails to impress is that it does not really have a very good, let alone funny story to tell. In the first movie you had the combined effort of having an entirely ridiculous Manchurian Candidate plot set in the world of high fashion mixed with Zoolander’s intense rivalry and slowly developing bromance with Hansel. The bizarre convergence of the two made the movie so utterly nuts that it somehow just clicked, and became incredibly hilarious. It’s a tough act to follow and unfortunately, instead of having anything as ingenious to offer, we instead get a very familiar and tiresome James Bond spoof, with a side dish subplot about Zoolander trying to reconnect with his estranged, fat son that he has not seen in years, and for good measure, you are riddled with plenty of callbacks and references to the original movie that feel more than a bit tacked on and in hindsight, kinda sad and lame. As a sequel the movie perhaps ends up being a bit too preoccupied being just that, alarmingly self-conscious follow up to a cult classic, unsure how to forge an identity of its own for itself. It also falls to the trap of being a typical Hollywood blockbuster sequel: everything must to be bigger, louder and dumber. Idiocy normally would not be that big of an issue, as much of the comedy directly comes from Derek and Hansel being airhead bimbos, but here, it’s gone overboard. It’s so stupid and banal that it does not even make you want to smirk.
That is not to say the entire movie is entirely awful, with no redeeming qualities. Truth to be told, I actually enjoyed seeing it for the most part. There are plenty of good jokes thrown left and right. It’s just that none of it really manages to redeem the parts that I found lacking. Namely the lack of the soul and ambitious originality that you could see in the first movie and that flaw is inevitably the sequel’s downfall. Zoolander 2 simply cannot compete with its own cult legacy and when it instead tries to cash in on it, it only makes matters worse and only underlines how lost and devoid of something to call its own the movie truly is.
Now, back to complaining. There’s just not enough of Will Ferrel as Mugatu this time around. He was one of the highlights of the first movie, and unfortunately there’s very little here that comes even close to matching the over the top villainy that made Mugatu such a fun character in the first movie. The only time Ferrell truly manages to recapture the magic is when Derek goes to meet Mugatu in the fashion supermax prison. Their exchange is hilarious and it only gets better when Mugatu suckers Derek into aiding in his ingenious escape from prison, as you get this really simple but kinda elaborate gag where, while walking to freedom, he first sheds off his clothes to reveal an incredibly muscular, heavily tattooed prison body that is playing off the old ‘get buff in prison’ trope (the piano tie tattoo on his chest being almost mindblowingly awesome callback gag), only for that ripped body in turn being then torn off as well (along with the accompanying bald cap) revealing that it was all a facade, and under his fake muscle disguise Mugatu looks exactly like he did in the original movie, with the silly hair and unique wardrobe sense completely intact, as if perfectly preserved for this very moment. Just thinking about the scene makes me grin like the Cheshire cat, it’s so goddamn funny bit. One of the few truly excellent ones that probably will bear the test of time.
In closing, as sad as it is to admit this, while I did have fun with Zoolander 2, that does not stop the subpar performances from ruining the movie almost entirely. The jokes that do work (like everybody in Hansel’s orgy harem getting pregnant at the same time, including male members like Kiefer Sutherland) do not manage to balance, or even tip, the scales in the movie’s favor, and as a whole, the movies leaves mostly an unpleasant aftertaste consisting of failure and lack of originality in your mouth. Shame, really. In a perfect universe this might have been the greatest thing since The Empire Strikes Back. But it was not meant to be.