In the age of sequels, franchises and overall ‘movie nostalgia’– we get to be privy to far too many films that attempt to recreate or pay homage to older successful films. Rather than studios financing newer and more unique projects, they opt, instead, to pay for films that will have (1) franchise viability, (2) brand recognition and/or (3) a strong fan-base that is sure to make money. This trend in Hollywood is due not only to the fact that production companies are greed but also because movie are costing more and more to make. If you’re going to spend 50 million dollars or, usually, more, you want to be sure that your investment will have a sure-fire pay-off. And this trend is alright so long as the production companies are making quality films that do a solid job of paying homage to the source material while also breaking new ground. Creed is a prime example of a movie that stamps out its own franchise and story while honoring the original Rocky franchise.
However, the usual tends to lean towards remakes and sequels being simple rehashes of the source material rather than a unique story of its own. The audience gets to see films that are essentially bad remakes of great films and, in my opinion, that is not okay at all! And to my dismay, Zoolander 2, or 2oolander if you would prefer to call it that, seems to fall into this category as it spends far too much time attempting to replay the same jokes on top of making pop-culture references in hopes that doing so would make the film more relevant to a young audience rather than sticking to what made the original film so perfect.
Former models Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller) and Hansel find themselves thrust back into the spotlight after living in seclusion for years. Invited to a major fashion event in Rome, the estranged friends are surprised to see how much the business has changed. Even more shocking is their encounter with Valentina Valencia, a special agent who needs their help. Someone is killing famous pop stars, and it’s up to Derek and Hansel to help save the world’s most beautiful people from a similar fate.
You would think that iconic characters like Mugatu, Zoolander and Hansel would be in the solid hands of Ben Stiller who created them in the first place. You would think that he would want to do said characters justice! But that seems to be too much to ask… Rather than attempt to recapture the essence of the characters– they felt forced and awkward. Sure, there was a solid amount of making fun of how dumb male models were I the original story, and there is a lot of that in the sequel… but that stupidity was actually important to the story in the original film! Mugatu was molding assassins to do his dirty work and to mold an assassin he required a person who was in peak physical condition but was dumb as a box of rocks…. so yeah… male models. In the newest installment of the Zoolander franchise, we get the same jokes and jabs at the dumbness of male models, but for no real reason or purpose other than forced-laughs. What was at one time clever got turned into a farce. And that isn’t even the worst offense of the film!
The worst offense, for me, is the fact that they took what COULD have been an interesting premise and destroyed it by trying to bring back unneccesary characters. There are spoilers ahead so you have been warned: There are two main storylines in this film. The first, is that of Zoolander and his quest to reunite with his estranged son. The second is that of pop stars being killed in an effort to find the ‘fountain of youth’ which turns out to be a person that shares in the same bloodline as Steve, the first male model that lived in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve. Honestly each of these could have worked as their own movies as a comedy, but together it feels like not enough time is devoted to either for them to truly matter in the film. The “Adam Eve and Steve” story in particular upset me in the film because it ended up being extremely underutilized in the film and became a subplot for the revenge of Mugatu. As much as a love Will Ferrel, is it pretty clear that they used him as a crutch in this film. It was as if Stiller was afraid that if they didn’t have a Mugatu and had to rely on a new villain then the movie would fail. Which I think is crazy because Kristen Wiig as the villain was doing fairly well for laughs and then she all but disappeared when Mugatu came on the scene. This was a big disappointment for me and proves to me that Stiller was afraid to break any new ground and chose, instead, to play it safe and deliver a mediocre movie rather than a new classic for a younger audience.
I would be lying, however, if I said that the entire film was unfunny. There were many jokes that landed for me and while I disliked the inclusion of Mugatu in the film– many of his dialogue and jokes were hilarious. Stiller and Wilson have a lot of on-screen chemistry and honestly they’ve aged fairly well and still pull off the fake male-model look. Unfortunately, while there were some solid jokes– they felt few and far between and you are left mostly with sad-sack type characters rather than people deserving of your praise or admiration.
And you know what? Part of what made this movie such a god-awful disappointment to me was the fact that their ad-campaign was actually pretty stellar. Not only did they unveil this new movie of theirs by going to an actual fashion show AS Hansel and Zoolander (which was friggin gold) but their initial teaser trailer was a big surprise and was hilarious as hell. This movie started off on the right foot and had me pumped up since day one and it was a real let down when it actually released. On top of that, they completely wasted casting Benedict Cumberbatch as he was in the film for a whole 6 minutes and did very little over all.
At the end of the day, Zoolander 2 isn’t a complete waste of space– there are some laughs, but it is a movie that really didn’t need to be made. It is a movie that is well passed it’s prime in literally every respect. Their target audience is what? 15 years older now and have been viewing movies of similar intelligence and content for years and are, more than likely, tired of it. The younger audience that this production company is praying will see the film really wont get the references from the original films– which is something this film is quite heavy with– and probably wont care for the pop culture jabs because they seem extremely forced. Ultimately we end up with a film that has no real target audience and few laughs. So, if you absolutely HAVE to see this film, wait until it can be rented via Redbox or wait until your local theater does a cheap-ticket day or something because paying top dollar to see this film is an extreme waste.