Wednesday 20 July 2016

Zoolander 2

Although it arguably sagged in places, Zoolander was overall a very funny film that served as an excellent example of why Ben Stiller keeps getting handed big-budget comedies again and again. It was almost (but not quite) good enough for us to forgive his friendship with Ricky Gervais. Now available on DVD and blu ray and directed, co-written by and starring Stiller, Zoolander 2 arrives a full 15 years after the first film. Could it possibly be worth the wait?

Zoolander has retired from modelling and is living as “a hermit crab”, following the structural collapse of the Derek Zoolander Center For Kids Who Can’t Read Good; which killed his wife, and disfigured fellow model Hansel (Owen Wilson). Following multiple murders of pop stars – each of whom shared a selfie with a Zoolander-style pout in their dying moments – Valentina Valencia (Penèlope Cruz) of Interpol’s fashion division sets off to track him down in an effort to solve the mystery.

There are other efforts to substantiate the story (such as a subplot about Zoolander trying to find and reconnect with the son that was taken off him), but make no mistake: This is a film held together by its jokes. There’s nothing wrong with that as a concept. Hell, it worked just fine for series such as The Naked Gun and the Monty Python films. Zoolander 2 is never in danger of taking itself seriously – and that, in essence, is why it works.

I’m loathe to reference any of the jokes really, because they are almost exclusively the sort of one liners which rely on the element of surprise for full effect. While some miss the mark, the majority hit the funny bone hard. I must share one of my favourite lines however as your opinion on this, I think, will determine whether you’ll love or hate the film. The setup is that Hansel’s lovers (who he refers to collectively as “orgy”) reveal to him that they are pregnant for a self-aware formulaic soul-searching moment. They are all pregnant – including Kiefer Sutherland.

“How is that even possible?!?” asks Hansel.

“I thought you’d be happy,” says Kiefer, biting back tears.

It’s a film crammed full of cameos, far too many to list here. As you’d expect, some display all the acting talent of a rotting carrot, but at least their time is brief; and others put in a surprisingly good appearance. The main appeal, of course, lies with the ‘proper’ actors. Stiller and Wilson make a great double act in their roles of pathetically stupid male models, ridiculed for failing to fit in with a 21st Century fashion culture which is itself ridiculed. New baddie Alexanya Atoz, while she doesn’t get a massive amount of screen time, allows Kristen Wiig to further cement her standing in the world of comic acting with a great performance.

From the second he first appears, it’s obvious that Will Ferrell is having enormous fun reprising his role as Zoolander’s nemesis Mugatu. Hammier than a pigsty, cheesier than Wayne Rooney’s football socks, Ferrell’s performance proves that this sort of outlandish caricature is the role he excels at (which is probably why it’s slightly reminiscent of Megamind). Cruz on the other hand, while doing an admirable job, generally looks ever so slightly uncomfortable in the comic and, ultimately, subordinate role that she’s been given. There are exceptions that prove the rule, including a scene which at one point sees her force Zoolander’s hands onto her bra. I don’t find this memorable for the reasons you might think; rather, I found it absolutely hilarious to see Stiller try – and fail – to pretend that he was unhappy about having a firm grip on Penèlope Cruz’s breasts.

Despite the (unwarranted, in my opinion) pre-release controversy over Benedict Cumberbatch’s character of the androgynous model ‘All’, his role is very minor, and serves mainly to emphasise how out of touch Zoolander and Hansel are with the modern world. Cyrus Arnold, who plays Zoolander’s son, easily avoids being annoying; but he’s not the sort of child actor to leave an impression on you. Overall though I say fuck you Metacritic, I loved this film.

The man of blue steel makes a triumphant return. 5/5.

Luke Kemp

Zoolander 2 at CeX

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