Who here has seen Anchorman 2? Most moviegoers would agree that, despite the sequel not happening until 10 years had passed since the original, it was still a worthy and humorous addition to the Anchorman legacy. So, keeping this in mind, it wouldn’t be a stretch to claim this is what you’d be expecting out of Zoolander 2. Yet, instead of capturing the heart and charm of the original, this absolutely unnecessary sequel just comes off as a giant mess that should have never made it off the writer’s table.
Zoolander 2 takes place about 15 years after famous supermodel Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller) retired from modeling to pursue a career in helping children “who can’t read good and wanna learn to do other stuff good too.” However, with the untimely destruction of his prestigious foundation, Zoolander and Hansel (Owen Wilson) part ways to live the rest of their lives in solitude. When the world’s most recognized faces begin dropping like flies, Derek and Hansel, with the aid of Agent Melanie Valentina (Penelope Cruz), must band together and figure out who is responsible for these heinous crimes, even if an old foe may just be responsible.
Well, let’s start with the few positives this train-wreck has to offer. The film’s strongest asset is easily the amount of cameos plastered throughout the run time. Some don’t work particularly well, but others are so out of the blue and nonsensical that you can’t help but laugh at the sheer ridiculousness of it all. Three of these cameos shined especially brightly, and every time they came on-screen, you were guaranteed at least one good laugh. In fact, there are a few good laughs to be had in this piece. When Zoolander 2 occasionally attempts to clash characteristics of the modern world versus the world he originated from, there can be some interesting results. Not to mention, just about everyone will love the opening sequence.
Nevertheless, that’s where everything somewhat likable about this movie ends. Almost every other moment, from beginning to end, feels entirely wrong. First of all, it doesn’t feel like a sequel as much as a giant headline that reads, “Hey, remember the first movie!? Well, here’s a hundred different call backs that fit absolutely nowhere in the story, because why try to create an original sequel when we can just make the first one again except not funny?!” Every single nod to the original title is painfully forced to the point where anyone who didn’t see Zoolander will be left scratching their heads.
It also has one of the most unnatural romances in the history of cinema – I’m not even joking. There’s absolutely no chemistry between leads Ben Stiller and Penelope Cruz, but apparently the beautiful bland female character has to fall for the lovable idiot because “the writers say so.” Sure, the original’s romance between Stiller and Christine Taylor was fairly forced as well, but at least it wasn’t insultingly shoved in for absolutely no reason. Taylor’s character was, to some extent, a driving force in Zoolander’s journey from pompous to considerate, but Cruz’s Valentina has no such use in this script.
In fact, this leads to Zoolander 2‘s biggest offense of all, a plethora of under utilized or entirely unnecessary characters. For one, Will Ferrell seems to have utterly no idea what he’s supposed to be doing in this story. His villain story arc, again, feels like just another giant callback labored into the narrative, and he provides no laughing material whatsoever for the audience to enjoy. Every so often, there are these silent pauses between characters, such as Ferrell and his assistant, where they just make weird faces at each other and we’re supposed to believe that’s comedy. Does that sound funny to you? Additionally, a rising artist named Don Atari (Kyle Mooney) tries to dominate a good chunk of screen time during the film’s beginning, but every single second of that chunk is agonizingly dull. We’ve already discussed Cruz’ lack of definition, but the worst offenders of all is Stiller and Wilson themselves. They no longer command the screen like they did in their previous work together. Unlike a fine wine, their characters just haven’t aged well past the 15 year mark, and it ends up coming off like they don’t know what to do with their roles anymore. They do try forcing in a father/son story line between Derek and his now chubby son Derek Jr, but guess what, it’s also pathetically stale.
To sum everything up, let’s just state one more little fact about this epic disaster: there were four writers behind it. With so many other people involved with the script, you would think director Ben Stiller would be able to come up with something a little better for his well-known character, but that’s disappointingly not the case here. In all honesty, Zoolander 2 feels like the kind of movie where you would hope somebody makes a clip show of the best jokes and uploads it online, just to spare you the dread of having to trudge through everything else. If you do manage to find something enjoyable about this flick, good on you, but for everyone else, let us pray there will never be a Zoolander 3.