Yet another piece of evidence that comedy sequels don’t work.
Zoolander 2 (also seen in some advertising as 2oolander or Zoolander No. 2) starts with an exciting chase scene. Some mysterious figures on motorcycles are chasing a man in a hooded sweatshirt. They catch up to him in an alleyway, and riddle him with bullets. As he takes bullet after bullet in a shot that continues for 10-15 seconds, the audience goes from laughter to applause. Why? Because it’s Justin Bieber. That’s the comedic currency of this entire movie: celebrity cameos as punch lines.
I don’t need a celebrity cameo for a punch line here. I just need to say that this is a very, very bad movie, with attempts to induce smiles with retreads of old jokes and the aforementioned celebrity cameos. They come fast and furious, and it took until the closing credits to spot some of them. That was Christina Hendricks? Who knew? I wouldn’t have spotted Ariana Grande if not for the people next to me who yelled out “Ariana Grande!” when she came onscreen. For them, the cameos were enough. Yay! I spotted a famous person in the background!
It’s not all bad. Some of the celebrity appearances work pretty well. Benedict Cumberbatch is excellent as usual, Kiefer Sutherland acts like he’s in a better movie, and Fred Armisen would have stolen the show as an 11-year-old boy if he had been given more to do. But the cameos come fast and furious, and they are really the only excuse for the movie to exist. It’s surely not its plot.
Oh, what’s the plot? We join Derek Zoolander and Hansel 15 years after the events of the original movie. Derek’s wife has died, his son was removed by children protective services, and he’s now living the life of a “hermit crab.” Hansel is living in a cabin with his harem, who have just announced to him that he’s going to have a baby. Meanwhile, Penelope Cruz as an Interpol fashion agent is hot on the heels of the person killing celebrities who die while making the famous “blue steel” look, which is an excuse to fit even more celebrities in the story! More celebrities!!!
The main conflict of the movie is whether or not Derek Zoolander can reconnect with his son. Hansel has to come to grips with becoming a father, when he never knew his own father. This is material that’s mined both for laughs AND, surprise, celebrity cameos! What a surprise when we find out who Hansel’s father is!
Now for a moment, let’s focus on what works about this movie.
I kid! I kid! There are a bunch of visual gags that are well conceived. Ben Stiller is a competent director, and the action and suspense stuff works better than the comedy (maybe he should make a straight spy flick? Ben Stiller for a Mission Impossible movie? I’d be in for that.) In all, Zoolander 2 is a seriously ill conceived waste of time and money. Jokes fall flat, are borderline offensive at times, and go after targets long since forgotten. Old and lame, this is.
Zoolander 2 opens nationwide today.