Film Review: 'Zoolander No. 2'


Ben Stiller plays Derek Zoolander and Owen Wilson plays Hansel in Zoolander No. 2 from Paramount Pictures. Photo credit: Philippe Antonello © 2015 PARAMOUNT PICTURES. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

It’s been 15 years since Zoolander introduced movie viewers to the dimwitted but sweet male super model Derek Zoolander and his trademark wide-eyed, pouty-lipped look, the Blue Steel. Like the original movie, the new sequel, Zoolander No. 2, stars Ben Stiller—who also directed both pictures—as Derek and Owen Wilson as his former rival turned sidekick, the equally simple-minded Hansel. Will Ferrell returns in his hilarious role as Derek’s arch enemy, the maniacal fashion designer Mugatu. Similar to its predecessor, Zoolander No. 2 is also peppered with cameo appearances from an eclectic mix of actors, fashion icons and other celebrities. Sting, Katy Perry, Anna Wintour and Neil deGrasse Tyson are just a few examples.

The movie opens with Justin Bieber fleeing attackers who gun him down on a dark street. As he lies dying, the pop singer reaches for his phone to take one last Instagram photo, a selfie of him contorting his face in his best Derek Zoolander imitation. Bieber is the latest victim in a string of mysterious murders of the world’s most beautiful celebrities. Penelope Cruz plays Valentina Valencia, a special agent with Interpol’s Global Fashion Division, who’s investigating the killings.

Zoolander No. 2 then brings viewers up-to-speed on Derek’s life since the first movie. We learn that he married his love interest, Matilda, and the couple had a son, Derek Jr. (Cyrus Arnold). But Matilda died when the poorly constructed skyscraper housing Derek’s organization—the Derek Zoolander Center for Kids Who Can't Read Good and Who Wanna Learn to Do Other Stuff Good Too—collapses with her inside it. Blaming himself for his wife’s death, his downward spiral continues when he loses his son amidst allegations that he’s an unfit father. In his typically bungled way, Derek announces that he’s retiring from modeling and moving to New Jersey to become a “hermit crab.”


Kristen Wiig plays Alexanya Atoz in Zoolander No. 2 from Paramount Pictures. Photo credit: Wilson Webb © 2015 PARAMOUNT PICTURES. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

He’s lured out of hiding and reunited with Hansel when the pair are summoned to Rome by haute-fashion queen Alexanya Atoz. With lips that are practically paralyzed from excess plastic surgery, and a body that’s immobilized by her outrageous ensembles, Alexanya is perfectly acted by Kristen Wiig. She, along with gibberish-spewing hipster designer Don Atari (Kyle Mooney), are the funniest new characters in Zoolander No. 2. Atari invites Derek and Hansel to strut the catwalk at his show at an industrial waste site, then humiliates them for being “old” and “lame” by dousing them with a vat of stewed prunes.

After their runway fiasco, Hansel convinces Derek to try and reunite with his son, who, they discover, happens to be in an orphanage in Rome. At first, father and son are equally horrified of each other. Derek Jr. is highly intelligent, but a little pudgy, a trait his vain father can’t handle. His son despises him for being stupid and self-involved.

The storyline gets more complicated when Valentina enlists Derek and Hansel in her investigation of the celebrity murders, which ultimately leads them to the sinister Mugatu.

Let’s face it, Zoolander No. 2 isn’t a great movie. The plot is convoluted, and at times silly to the point of being absurd, especially in the latter half. Other than a few new characters and some clever, updated references that poke fun at current trends—Derek uses Uber to get to the airport and he and Hansel are offered “farm-to-table WI-FI service” at a hip hotel—it doesn’t add much that’s fresh to the first fashion industry spoof.

But in spite of its flaws, Zoolander No. 2 is still entertaining. The sequel is especially likely to appeal to fans of the first movie. Watching it is a bit like going to a fun, if somewhat dysfunctional, reunion with old friends. Sure, you’re familiar with their quirks and have heard all their jokes before. But they’re endearing and make you laugh just the same. Some viewers—like my 13-year-old daughter—might even find Zoolander No. 2 funnier than the original movie.