[Screen It]

"ZOOLANDER 2"
(2016) (Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson) (PG-13)


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QUICK TAKE:
Comedy: Two former fashion model stars come out of retirement to help Interpol figure out who's behind the murders of famous pop and rock stars.
PLOT:
It's been fifteen years since models Derek Zoolander (BEN STILLER) and Hansel McDonald (OWEN WILSON) were at the top of their game in the fashion industry world. But following the collapse of the "Derek Zoolander Center for Kids Who Can't Read Good And Wanna Learn To Do Other Stuff Good Too" -- that left Hansel's face scarred and Derek's wife, Matilda, dead, and ultimately led to child protection services taking away his custody of their son, Derek Zoolander Jr. (CYRUS ARNOLD) -- the models have all but disappeared. Derek has become a reclusive hermit in northern New Jersey, and Hansel has been actively involved with a group of orgy participants led by Kiefer Sutherland (KIEFER SUTHERLAND), while their former nemesis, Jacobim Mugatu (WILL FERRELL), is locked away in a fashion prison.

Since their disappearance, fashionista Alexanya Atoz (KRISTEN WIIG) has taken over the fashion world with the industry's number one model, Don Atari (KYLE MOONEY). Yet, she's sent an emissary (BILLY ZANE) to invite them to her runway show in Rome. But she's not the only one interested in working with them as agent Melanie Valentina (PENELOPE CRUZ), of Interpol's fashion police division, is seeking their help to crack a case she's working on. With Justin Bieber having just been gunned down, she's trying to figure out why someone has been murdering pop and rock stars, and why Bieber sent out a photo doing Derek's trademark "blue steel" gaze just before dying.

From that point on, and as they try to figure out the new fashion world, Derek hopes to be reunited with his son, all while all involved must contend with the treachery about to be unleashed by Mugatu.

OUR TAKE: 3 out of 10
I have a number of reviewer friends who, upon hearing that a sequel to some previous film is coming out, will go back and watch the one or various other predecessors that started the series. I understand the rationale for doing so, as it allows for comparisons to those previous entries as well as the ability to comment on any sort of connective elements between the pics.

I'm not one of those reviewers. While I might re-watch movies that I think are terrific, I already sit through enough that I don't need to do so unnecessarily, especially since I think all films should stand on their own, regardless of how they do or do not relate to those that preceded them.

For instance, upon hearing of this week's release of "Zoolander 2," I didn't feel the need to go back and watch the first installment, particularly since nearly fifteen years have passed since we last saw the likes of the title character and his other fashion industry associates. In fact, beyond remembering that the film starred Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson and Will Ferrell, I couldn't tell you much about the comedy offering outside of Stiller's character using his "blue steel" glance as some sort of supernatural power.

I also couldn't recall if I even liked the pic until I went back and reread my artistic review. I gave it a favorable rating despite what appears to have been a lot of issues and misgivings, but methinks that might have had more to do with when the film was released. And that was just a few weeks after the 9/11 tragedy and the country was in the need of some mindless nonsense and laughs. And thus I sense I gave it the thankful benefit of the doubt for helping out.

While we're still in the need of laughs, that doesn't currently fall into the same degree of desperation. But even if it did, "Zoolander 2" isn't the pic for the job. In fact, it's a huge disappointment, especially considering that all involved had a decade and a half to come up with a plot and related jokes.

After the real life Justin Bieber gets gunned down in the opening sequence (a briefly amusing bit), we learn that the Interpol fashion police (not to be confused with the show on E! that Joan Rivers created) are investigating related deaths and their top agent (Penelope Cruz) thinks Derek Zoolander (Stiller) might be able to provide some help.

That's followed by a quick opening credits recap of what's transpired with the characters over the past 15 years, followed by Billy Zane (one of many actors playing themselves) separately tracking down both Derek and Hansel (Wilson) to invite them to a fashion runway show put on by the current fashionista of the world (played by Kristen Wiig).

They quickly realize the fashion world has passed them by, all while Derek hopes he can find his boy (Cyrus Arnold) who was taken away from him years ago by child protection services. As all of that transpires, Mugatu (Ferrell) plots his escape from a fashion prison in an unnecessarily convoluted storyline. After sitting through nearly two hours of this, I've come to the conclusion that many should be sent to comedy prison for their crimes against humanity and good filmmaking.

While I don't have any overriding issue with the performers reprising their roles and related characteristics, Stiller's Zoolander still comes off as a one-gag bit that feels like a less than inspired, poorly conceived cousin to Mike Myers' Austin Powers character.

Beyond the overall storyline that provides few genuine laughs, the film's barrage of attempted jokes (including many returning to orgy material and the menagerie of involved people -- and animals) fall flat at an alarming and certainly disappointing rate. That's made worse by a plethora of cameos (ranging from tiny parts played by the likes of Katy Perry, Willie Nelson, Susan Sarandon and more to slightly more substantial bits from Kiefer Sutherland, Fred Armisen and Sting) that make one wonder if any of these stars read the script or simply and blindly agreed to show up for a few minutes of shooting.

At one point in the film, Stiller and Wilson's characters realize the fashion world has long since passed them by and they're now relics in this new environment. If only the performers -- not to mention Stiller also behind the camera and responsible for writing the screenplay alongside Justin Theroux, Nicholas Stoller and John Hamburg -- realized the movie world has long since passed by the original pic with no need or desire for a sequel.

Painful to watch in how many jokes and gags land with a thud (like a bad "SNL" skit that goes on and on), "Zoolander 2" will long be flushed from my memory should installment number three come along sometime in the 2030s. The offering rates no better than a 3 out of 10.




Reviewed February 9, 2016 / Posted February 12, 2016


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