by Charles Lewis III
Back in the ‘80s, Heinz Ketchup ran a series of ads featuring a number of up-and-coming young models and actors (most notably Matt LeBlanc). The ads featured attractive young people waiting patiently for their slow-dripping Heinz bottles to cover their hotdogs and fries with the delicious red stuff. When it finally did, the main character was often rewarded by catching the eye of some other attractive young model/actor. The ads would end with the slogan “The best things come to those who wait”. That phrase does not apply to long-awaited sequel of Ben Stiller’s beloved fashion spoof, Zoolander.
Sixteen years after the death of his wife Mathilda, Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller) has disappeared from the public eye to live in solitude. When an unexpected visit by Billy Zane inspires him to show his face again, he and his estranged BFF/rival Hansel (Owen Wilson) once again find themselves embroiled in a global conspiracy involving the really, really good-looking people of the world. Can Derek unravel this plot and reconnect with the son he abandoned more than a decade earlier?
Watching this film, one is struck with a sense of déjà vu: the film makes the mistake of repeating jokes from the first film rather than creating new ones. Worse yet, this film doesn’t seem to understand why its predecessor’s jokes were so funny in the first place. Like fellow long-time-coming sequel Anchorman 2, Zoolander 2 thinks doing previous jokes bigger, and for longer periods of time, will somehow make them funnier. What’s more, both of those earlier films were grounded in a sense of reality that oddly played well with the moments of farce. The sequels are all farce, robbing the characters of the very humanity that made them so appealing to begin with.
When the film does attempt to distinguish itself from its predecessor – such as a few comments about how technology has advanced in the past 16 years – it comes off less as sly commentary and more like an old man complaining about “the kids these days”.
And it’s a shame, because the talent involved could have resulted in a much better film. In addition to Stiller, Wilson, and Will Ferrell returning to their roles, the film includes spot-on performances by Penelope Cruz, Kristen Wiig, and a host of celebrities too numerous to name here. A scene-stealing performance Kyle Mooney is almost enough to make one wish the entire film were about him.
Zoolander 2 has a few fleeting moments showing the greatness that could have been, but it’s satisfied imitating the greatness that was. If that’s the best one could ask for, you’re better off just watching the original again.
Rating: **1/2 (Two-and-a-half)