Film Review: “Zoolander 2”

Rating: 1.5/5.0
Directed by: Ben Stiller
Starring: Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Will Ferrell, Penelope Cruz
Release Date: Feb. 12, 2016
Rated: PG-13

Movies certainly don’t have to answer deep questions or ultimately have a “point.” But it remains natural to still ask “why does this film exist?” Unfortunately, “Zoolander 2” seems to exist simply to prompt the question of whether every comedy film needs a sequel these days. To which Hollywood apparently replied with a resounding “yes!” while audiences groaned in unison.

It all starts promising enough. Following a horrific (and totally avoidable) accident in which his wife is killed, Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller) abandons his son and leaves his modeling career behind to live as a “hermit crab” in the frigid wastes of “extreme northern New Jersey.” However, with celebrities dying in droves — all seemingly sporting Derek’s signature “Blue Steel” look — he’s pulled back into the modelling game by Interpol’s “Global Fashion Division” to tackle a growing conspiracy.

Much like “Anchorman 2,” this sequel builds itself around a nonsensical and forgettable plot that does little to hold the audience’s attention. But with “Anchorman 2,” at the least the film knew that its central story was worthless and gave room for its cast to shine and breathe some life into individual segments. “Zoolander 2,” on the other hand, simply piles more ridiculous elements onto an already ridiculous premise and refuses to let go.

By the point that it’s revealed, via some truly horrific CGI, that Derek’s offspring apparently are part of a lineage that can be slaughtered and consumed to grant eternal life (you read that right), any attempts to slow the narrative down and focus on the quirks that made the first installment so funny have been thrown by the wayside.

There’s plenty of room for and acceptance of “stupid” comedy these days. Alternative comedy is booming, with “Tim & Eric” and “Comedy Bang! Bang!” steadily pushing into the mainstream. But there’s still a wide gulf between comedy that knows how to play with stupid jokes (thus being smart stupid? …Whatever) and comedy that’s simply vapid and lazy.

“Zoolander 2,” unlike its predecessor, largely falls into the latter category. It’s Hansel (Owen Wilson) running away from his marriage to a 13-person orgy. It’s Neil Degrasse Tyson popping up to say “I’m Neil Degrasse Tyson, bitch!” And it’s 500 other celebrity cameos shoved in to spruce up a film which mostly consists of waiting for the familiar characters to repeat fan-favorite lines from the first film.

It’s unfortunate, given that the prevalence of Facebook, Instagram, Vine and about a million other tools of self-absorption should be ripe for satire by the vain Derek Zoolander. But the only real jab this film can manage is a gag where Derek sports an incredibly long selfie stick while driving, which naturally results in a horrific, over-the-top and physically unharmful car accident.

The best that can be said for “Zoolander 2” is that its supporting cast manages to occasionally break the film away from its headlong rush into ruin. Will Ferrell is as delightful as ever playing the nefarious fashion mega villain Mugatu, and Kristen Wiig as his bizarre, ambiguously European lover is hysterical. Meanwhile, “Saturday Night Live” cast member Kyle Mooney brings his signature so-awkward-it’s-amazing brand of comedy to the disaster on screen with some success.

Other than that, for those looking to blow off some steam, just go out for a relaxing orange mocha frappucino and forget this sequel ever existed.