Review of "Zoolander 2 (DVD)"

published 17/11/2016 | afy9mab
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All of my DVD reviews are film only, so do not include pricing information. If you have time, please read and rate my Batman V Superman review.
Pro Some funny lines.
Cons Too many celebrity cameos, not enough plot and repetitive jokes.
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"A Definite Number Two"

After the collapse of the Derek Zoolander Centre for Kids Who Can’t Read Good killed his wife and led to his son being taken into care, Derek Zoolander has withdrawn from the world of high fashion and lives as a recluse. But he is brought out of hiding by a mysterious invitation from the world’s top designer. Once in Rome, Derek learns from a sexy Interpol agent that pop stars are being gunned down while sporting his iconic facial expressions.

Ben Stiller gets back behind and in front of the camera for an extremely belated and completely unnecessary sequel to “Zoolander”. Like its characters, it is shallow and soulless. He goes for the bigger-is-better approach, front-loading the production with glossy visuals, a star count that is well into double figures and a glamorous Italian setting. Nevertheless, it fails to satisfy on any level. Stiller’s shot selection and editing are graceless, so it feels as though he never makes enough of the locations, the cast or the set-up.

The script is paper-thin and as a director, Stiller does nothing to beef it up (the fact that he’s also co-writer and star suggest he may have been too close to the project to see its many glaring deficiencies). Weirdly, it has the feeling of being rushed into production, as though it was being made to cash-in on the latest hit. Considering he had fifteen years to work on the follow-up, I expected better. The humour is far more miss than hit and extremely repetitive. This is mainly because regardless of the set-up for the joke, the payoff is usually that models are stupid. The movie really wants to be a satire of the fashion world, but is too cosy with the people it is trying to parody. The sheer number of fashionistas willing to collaborate on the production (presumably just to raise their own profile) by tipping up and woodenly trotting out lines makes this more of a celebration of or an in-joke on the vacuous nature of their industry. To me, it also felt as though the constant stream of celebrity walk-ons was intended to distract from the lack of plot. Every time a new nonsensical twist occurs, another famous person pops up, so you’re busier thinking “Why Susan Sarandon? Why?” instead of questioning the story. But in spite of the glitz and glamour, the film feels flat and joyless.

There is practically no character development, so it’s impossible to care about anyone. The protagonists are uniformly idiotic, while the antagonists are equally vapid. The lack of an emotional anchor is very telling. Whereas the first movie had journalist Matilda to keep the narrative grounded in reality (highlighting unpleasant issues like eating disorders and sweatshop manufacturing that blight the fashion industry), everyone is riding the crazy train in the latest instalment. The tone is also sourer than the original because there is no-one to call out the fashion world on its body fascism. The pacing is erratic, mainly because the narrative grinds to a screeching halt at every cameo, which seem to crop up about once every two minutes. Should the screen be devoid of stars for longer than that, half-a-dozen big names will appear in the same scene. Although the film is not particularly long, at a-hundred-and-two minutes, it feels bloated because it is so self-indulgent.

It beggars belief that it took four people to write the screenplay. To me it felt as though Stiller, along with Justin Theroux, Nick Stoller and John Hamburg had put the script together piecemeal over a number of years. It sprays around ideas and half-baked gags, in the hope of hitting something. But the writing is so episodic and scattershot that it feels more like a series of vaguely themed sketches stitched together, instead of a continuous narrative. In spite of selfies and hipsters reclaiming the kitsch of yesteryear, much of the story feels outdated. You would have thought the writers would have a field day with the wholesale narcissism that has sprung out of social media, but they simply don’t address it. The central plot (when it finally kicks in) is modelled on “The Da Vinci Code”, which would have seemed dated ten years ago, let alone today. It leads to a glut of nonsensical twists and turns that make it appear the writers are simply making it up as they go along. The subplots about Derek trying to reconnect with his estranged son and Hansel coming to terms with impending fatherhood feel half-hearted.

The characterisation is flimsy. Derek Zoolander is a self-absorbed idiot prone to malapropisms, like being “a total laughing stick”. But he soon becomes tiresome because he is so one-note. If Derek is the fool, then Hansel is the fool that follows him. He’s a hippy dippy cod-philosophical model whose beliefs are as deep as a puddle. Derek Jr is smart and (gasp!) overweight, so is treated with both fear and scorn by his father. In a film where practically everyone is attempting to be funny, he’s about as close to a straight-man as we get. Valentina Valencia is a former swimsuit model turned Interpol agent, who acts as plot device and love interest. Don Atari is a clumsy embodiment of if-I-say-it’s-ironic-I’m-not-a-dick hipsterism. Evil fashion overlord Mugatu makes a comeback, but was far less funny than I remembered. Alexanya Atoz is a weak second-string villain, whose defining features is her inability to speak intelligibly, which means all of her jokes fall flat. The dialogue shows a few flashes of brilliance, but these are too few and far between. My favourite line was when Hansel tells Derek “You’re the most narcissistic, self-involved person I’ve ever met,” only for him to reply with genuine confusion “But that’s not how I think of me.”

Ben Stiller pouts and wrinkles his brow with puzzlement as prize idiot Derek Zoolander, but for me the shine has worn off the character. Owen Wilson does his usual affable stoner thing as Hansel. Oscar-winner Penelope Cruz is poured into a variety of skin-tight and barely-there costumes as Valentina. She shows willing when it comes to the comedy, but has very limited success due to the script and editing. Will Ferrell returns as the villainous Mugatu, chewing the scenery in every shot. But (to me, at least) it feels as though there is a little desperation about everything he does as the character. I have no idea what Kristen Wiig is doing as Alexanya Atoz. She’s virtually unrecognisable under all of the prosthetics (which is probably a good thing for her career) and her bizarre mangling of the English language is perplexing, rather than funny. Cyrus Arnold plays it straight as Derek Jr, holding his own in a cast of older, more experienced performers.

The original music by Theodore Shapiro has a bit more range than the rest of the production, spiking scenes with emotive arrangements that underline the absurdity of the action. If only the accompanying movie had been as ambitious… The other soundtrack choices include plenty of tracks reused from the first “Zoolander” film, including Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s “Relax”, disco classic “Love to Love You Baby” by Donna Summer and “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” by Wham! In addition, more current performers like Skrillex, A$AP Rocky and Wolfmother also pop up. To be honest, the music is probably the strongest aspect of the production.

I was hugely disappointed by “Zoolander 2” – I thought it was a total mess. I found the direction self-indulgent, the writing scattershot and the performances laboured. It lacks the satire and the quotable dialogue of the first movie. However, there is a certain irony to Stiller resurrecting a character whose style of comedy has gone out of fashion. It’s just a shame that it isn’t actually funny. Unless you’re a hardcore Stiller fan, it’s one to avoid.

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Product Information : Zoolander 2 (DVD)

Manufacturer's product description

Product Details

DVD Region: DVD

Main Language: English

Actor: Ben Stiller

Classification: 12 years and over

Production Year: 2016

EAN: 5053083073930

Video Category: Feature Film


Listed on Ciao since: 28/09/2016