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Review: ‘Zoolander 2’ goes retro with mixed results (Includes first-hand account)

Sometimes a movie’s success is akin to lightening in a bottle. Everything comes together in perfect harmony to create an experience that is fondly remembered by everyone, immortalizing the picture in the minds of its fans. This is a phenomenon not easily repeated, no matter how vehemently they want to recapture the magic of the original. But that doesn’t prevent them from trying. Zoolander 2 is a highly anticipated sequel with exceptionally big shoes to fill.

After a tragic accident, renowned supermodels Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller) and Hansel (Owen Wilson) retreat from the public eye and each other, becoming recluses at opposite ends of the country. However, both are drawn out of retirement by an invitation to star in the hottest new designer’s runway collection. Travelling to Rome, they are recruited by Valentina (Penélope Cruz), head of Interpol’s fashion division, to assist with the investigation of a series of deaths — murdered pop stars are sharing selfies in which they strike one of Derek’s infamous poses just before expiring. Tied into all of this is Derek’s search for his estranged son (Cyrus Arnold) and Mugatu’s (Will Ferrell) desire to escape a maximum security fashion prison.

This movie attempts to recreate the humour of the first film, in most cases by repeating it. Few of this picture’s jokes are original and the most enjoyable ones are those drawn from its predecessor. The moments in which Derek fails to deliver an effective insult or Hansel’s attempts to help only make matters worse or Mugatu has a fit over a minor infraction are funny because they were amusing the first time. In other instances they further exaggerate already ridiculous notions, such as Hansel’s love of orgies and the strangeness of the fashion world. As a result, the movie is far sillier than the original — and not always in a good way as it sometimes just seems to be trying too hard to recapture its former glory.

However, the one legacy this picture does soundly carry forward is the inclusion of countless cameos. Familiar faces appear when you least expect them, instantly adding something to the most mundane scene. And there are definitely some memorable ones this time around. Justin Bieber appears early on, transitioning from overstated to deadly comical in a matter of seconds. Susan Sarandon‘s role is surprising, but her Rocky Horror Picture Show throwback is priceless. Similarly Kiefer Sutherland‘s connection to Hansel is wholly unpredictable and absurdly humorous. Benedict Cumberbatch is by far the most bizarre walk-on and his portrayal of an androgynous model has garnered varied attention. Though her part is not technically considered a cameo, Kristen Wiig‘s unusual accent as a fashion industry leader is definitely notable.

The original cast reprises their roles with equal vigor, seamlessly stepping back into the beloved personas they created 15 years ago. Unfortunately the script is trying so hard, it fails to find new and more relevant ways to entertain audiences. The first hour is even somewhat painful until Mugatu steers it nearer the right direction; though it regrettably never fully recovers.

Director: Ben Stiller
Starring: Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson and Penélope Cruz

Written By

Sarah Gopaul is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for film news, a member of the Online Film Critics Society and a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer-approved critic.

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