A bad film sticks in the craw a bit more when somebody capable of genius delivers it. Ben Stiller is one of the great modern day comedic actors. He started with The Ben Stiller Show, a project that basically gave birth to Mr. Show and Tenacious D. The man is directly or indirectly responsible for about 78 percent of the laughter that has come out of my face over the last 24 years.
As a director, he made a clunker out of the gate with Reality Bites, but followed it up with an underrated gem, The Cable Guy. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is much better than it gets credit for, and Tropic Thunder is a bad taste masterpiece.
Of all the comic creations Stiller has come up with and directed, Zoolander is the most bothersome. It’s a skit that wasn’t funny in the first place stretched into a feature that feels flat and in-jokey.
Stiller returns for another shot of unneeded male model parody with Zoolander 2, far and away the worst thing he’s ever done. It’s so bad, it’s a formidable, early contender for 2016’s worst film.
It basically takes a half-baked premise from 2001 and sequel-izes it, with the resultant goo having close to nothing to do with the original, tragically stupid half-baked premise, making it even more half-baked. It’s like, one quarter-baked. It represents Stiller at his most lost and floundering.
It’s 15 years later, and Derek Zoolander is living a hermit crab’s life in remote New Jersey, mourning the loss of his wife (Christine Taylor) after the Derek Zoolander Center for Kids Who Can’t Read Good and Who Wanna Learn to Do Other Stuff Good Too collapsed and crushed her to death.
Note to Stiller: Zoolander came out just a couple of weeks after 9/11, and is forever associated with that event because the Twin Towers were digitally removed from the film. Is it really a funny idea to have your wife’s character killed in an NYC building collapse that takes place in 2001? I didn’t laugh, so I’ve answered my own question.
Hansel (Owen Wilson) is living a secluded life in the deserts of Malibu with his orgy family (including a very sensitive Kiefer Sutherland). He’s visited by a message-delivering Billy Zane and goes on a quest to find Derek. Unfortunately, he does find him, and a forever boring comic duo gets another chapter.
A search for Derek’s son and some other nonsense leads them to Rome and an eventual showdown with fashion bad guy, Mugatu (Will Ferrell). The Mugatu subplot feels tacked on, as if they only had Ferrell for a week. He’s given close to nothing to work with, forcing him to mug for his paycheck.
This feels like a total rip-off of Austin Powers, with Zoolander and Hansel becoming spies, Penelope Cruz stepping in as the tightly clad female sidekick, and a daddy issues subplot involving Zoolander’s long lost son, not to mention Mugatu has become a sad riff on Dr. Evil.
The first half hour of the movie is actually less than terrible. Benedict Cumberbatch shows up as a hauntingly androgynous model called All who has married himself, and Derek’s comeback when somebody calls him a narcissist is the best line in the movie. So, I laughed twice.
There are too many cameos to count, many of them fashion icons I could care less about. When a big moment in your movie hinges upon the dramatic talents of Tommy Hilfiger, you’ve got yourself a problem. Did I mention that Kristen Wiig is in the movie, too? No, I didn’t. That’s because her bizarre character is something that begs to be forgotten.
Stiller got lazy and perhaps a little distracted with Zoolander 2. Time to reboot. Hopefully, he’ll consider a stint on some Netflix comedy series. (He would’ve made a great Wet Hot American Summer camp counselor, right?) He needs to get his edge back after this tremendous miscue.