How can anything come back in style if it was never fashionable? Fifteen years ago, director/co-writer Ben Stiller inflicted Zoolander on moviegoers, who understandably resisted. With the movie opening soon after the 9/11 attacks, few were in a mood for jokes, and Stiller's fashion industry spoof didn't offer many of those, anyway.
Zoolander 2 gives viewers even less to laugh about.
The sequel no one demanded, if you think about it, is a runway show of gratuitous celebrity cameos, callbacks to forgotten gags and direly few new ones. Stiller's pucker-face fashion model Derek Zoolander laughs more often in this movie than I did.
After a promising start in which Justin Bieber goes Jason Bourne, ending up riddled with bullets and ready to meme, Stiller overestimates how much anyone has missed Derek and his rival Hansel (Owen Wilson). A drawn-out montage reveals a career-ending disaster, Derek's grieving exile and Hansel's more salacious isolation. The script sticks a few effective jokes.
Then Stiller and three co-writers begin piling on plot to a laugh-throttling degree. Derek and Hansel are called back to runway action by a designing hipster (Kyle Mooney), while being tracked by an Interpol fashion agent (Penelope Cruz) investigating celebrity murders like Bieber's and searching for Derek's abandoned son (Cyrus Arnold).
There's so much going on that Will Ferrell as the nemesis Mugatu isn't squeezed in until the last 20 minutes, our wait unrewarded by his all-too-familiar brand of mania. At least Kristen Wiig tries something different with an array of absurd fashion statements and an indeciperable accent. Not that it works, but it's different.
What truly becomes aggravating about Zoolander 2 is its dependence upon a parade of famous people doing supremely unfunny things. Here is a movie with cameos by celebrity musicians like Katy Perry and Willie Nelson; actors including Susan Sarandon, John Malkovich and Kiefer Sutherland; and fashion icons like Anna Wintour and Tommy Hilfiger. Comedy isn't just showing up. Even open mic-ers know that.
Even after its wan box office performance, Zoolander allegedly became popular on home video, although stats aren't kept at the consignment shop of cult favoritism. Zoolander 2 isn't likely to achieve even that level of posterity. It's so last decade, cut from shoddy material.
Contact Steve Persall at [email protected] or (727) 893-8365. Follow @StevePersall.