Zoolander 2 is probably one of the funniest comedies of 2003. In 2016, it is heavily out-dated.
Bogged down in archaic jokes, and a fascination with commenting on the current state of comedy versus what the genre was when the original movie came out, Zoolander 2 feels more like a relic rather than anything new or fresh from the minds of Ben Stiller (who wrote, directed, and starred in the film) and Justin Theroux (who co-wrote the screenplay).
Picking up 15 years after the first movie, Derek Zoolander (Stiller) is disgraced and in hiding after his wife (played by Christine Taylor) died in an accident with the building that he commissioned at the end of the first movie and his son, Derek Jr. (Cyrus Arnold), was taken away from him after he was seen as an unfit parent. But he is brought back to the fashion game after new icon, Alexanya Atoz (Kristen Wiig), invites him to one final showing joined by friend, Hansel (Owen Wilson).
After arriving in Rome for the fashion show, Derek and Hansel are bombarded by Interpol agent Valentina (Penelope Cruz), who wants their help in a conspiracy between the fashion moguls and the evil Mugatu (Will Ferrell), who has escaped from prison.
Zoolander 2‘s biggest issue is its unwillingness to settle on one plot line — instead, shifting between multiple random and unnecessary subplots looking for any semblance of humor. It is easy to blame a comedy for being bad by saying it was not funny, but humor is supposed to be subjective and this is usually a cop-out. In this movie’s case, it is not only unfunny, but violently opposed to creating anything resembling a worked-out joke with a punchline.
The movie follows Derek and Hansel as they try to weave their way through the new fashion world, working alongside a set of sexual and gender politics that feel more out of an early 2000s comedy rather than something being widely released in 2016. There is also the issue of a shift in pop culture and what people find as “cool,” which Zoolander 2 reckons with in the form of Don Atari (played by SNL’s Kyle Mooney), a hipster millennial doofus, who mocks Derek and Hansel for their out-dated phrases and shortens his own speech as if he were texting in middle school again.
This bit goes on for longer than it should as the script attempts to comment on the more politically correct driven humor of the 2010s rather than the looser restraints that were in place when Zoolander first came out. But instead of making a forceful argument, Zoolander 2 is inclined to make grade school level assumptions about the millennial generation and seems more like two kids fighting on the playground rather than some sort of satire on modern popular culture, something the first film succeeded with.
Stiller and Wilson go through the motions as a record number of celebrities grace the screen in a string of cameos that most of the time have no purpose other than to flaunt that Katy Perry or Benedict Cumberbatch or Kanye West were able to show up on the set for a few hours. The first movie was built on cameos to an extent, but these are more celebrities hanging out with their famous friends and lacks any sort of reasoning (a la This is The End), feeling forced and confusing.
Zoolander 2 is a comedy lost in time and was probably better suited for a Funny or Die six-minute short film rather than an 102-minute feature film. It doesn’t feel current, it doesn’t feel necessary, and by the end, you question what possessed the people behind it to move forward with this idea. Not to say that this character doesn’t have a place in 2016, but maybe it is time we recognize that popular faces from the late 1990s and early 2000s don’t necessarily work just because we loved them back then.
Nostalgia doesn’t always equal good content.