Zoolander 2 is an almost irredeemably bad movie. It feels like both a lazy retread of the original and a tonally jarring rip off of a Dan Brown novel. Worst of all, it commits the cardinal sin of comedy: it is simply not funny. The only legacy it is likely to have is as a fixture in a film school module titled ‘How Not to Make a Sequel.’
Following several personal disasters, former male model Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller) has become a recluse. When a shadowy organisation begins assassinating the world’s most beautiful people, both Zoolander and his best model friend Hansel (Owen Wilson) are called out of retirement to assist Fashion Interpol agent Valentina Valencia (Penelope Cruz). Occasionally jokes are told.
While the original revelled in the silliness of the fashion industry, Zoolander 2 focuses on rather more serious issues. The plot inexplicably revolves around both parental neglect and ritualistic cannibalism.
Surprisingly, it is the former that proves to be the worse inclusion. Derek’s incompetence as a father is undoubtedly supposed to add some black comedy to proceedings, but it misses the mark so spectacularly that the material becomes legitimately disturbing.
The performances are passable at best. Stiller and Wilson still remember how to play Derek and Hansel, though their efforts are in vain due to the sterile script. Cruz is wasted in a thankless role, as are Kristin Wiig and Benedict Cumberbatch.
Will Ferrell is the one stand-out performer, providing the film’s only laughs as the villainous fashion magnate Mugatu. The film might have been redeemed if he appeared on screen for more than twenty minutes.
Celebrity cameos abound, and while some work (Neil deGrasse Tyson and the returning Billy Zane), most are useless. A sequence towards the end involving real-life fashion designers is the film’s low-point thanks to the unholy comedic trinity of bad acting, bad timing and a complete lack of punch in the editing. It is hard to reconcile that the same people behind this sequence once created the iconic gasoline fight scene in the original.
Zoolander 2 is a mess. It fails as both a sequel to a classic and as a standalone movie. It is a comedy that is short on laughs and a satire with no bite or edge. It is so lifeless and tonally messy that there is not even any joy to be had in mocking it. If you really need some biting satire of the fashion industry in your life, then go watch the original again. Avoid Zoolander 2 at all costs.