Review: 'Zoolander 2' a stylish but bland sequel

In this image released by Paramount Pictures, Ben Stiller as Derek Zoolander, from left, Owen Wilson as Hansel and Penelope Cruz as Valentina Valencia in a scene from the film, "Zoolander 2." (Philippe Antonello/Paramount Pictures via AP)

I didn’t realize how many years have passed since the original “Zoolander” until the sequel explained the events of the 15 years that had passed between the original film and the sequel. 15 years later, Ben Stiller still plays the narcissistic Derek Zoolander, but now he’s starring in a movie that’s a lot less funny than it was more than 10 years ago.

Sequels are almost always invariably worse than the original, but the opening of “Zoolander 2” gave me some hope. Justin Beiber is chased down and ultimately killed by a masked assassin, but not before he sends out one last Instagram picture, igniting a mystery that forces Zoolander out of self-imposed exile, after accidentally causing his wife’s death and having his son taken away by Child Protective Services. There’s a lot of fun, campy action and some good jokes in this intro, but the movie doesn’t stay that way.

After the first few minutes, I didn’t laugh for the better part of half an hour. I smiled occasionally at the jokes that failed to land, but for a while it seemed that whenever the filmmakers tried to do anything more than physical comedy the movie became a mess. Owen Wilson, who returns to play Hansel, and Stiller still have some chemistry, but the jokes just weren’t working for whatever reason.

Things get a lot better when Will Ferrell is brought back as criminal mastermind and fashionista Jacobim Mugatu. Ferrell is as fresh and entertaining now as in his prime, and the only times that I laughed out loud during the move came during scenes that prominently featured Ferrell. Close to a dozen other celebrities make cameos in the movie, including Neil Degrasse Tyson, Katie Perry and Matt Lauer. Benedict Cumberbatch is in the movie for a few minutes as well, but he’s wasted, as his character is only there so the Zoolander and Hansel can take some unfunny shots at transgender people.

A story about a chosen one and the fountain of youth emerges in the latter half of the film, which creates some entertaining scenes but also creates some plot holes. The film blatantly rips off the “Spongebob Squarepants” movie as well, although it’s more of a throwaway gag than an entire scene like in “Spongebob.” The latter half of the movie also features Zoolander’s son, Derek junior, more prominently. He’s annoying in most of his scenes, but gets a few funny lines so that audiences don’t hate him by the end of the movie.

Wilson’s character gets a couple of side plots that don’t really go anywhere, including who his real father is and a group of people that he impregnates whom he refers to as his “orgy.” The end of the film is probably the strongest part of the entire movie, with lots of jokes that work well and a hilarious monologue from Ferrell. The story makes a token effort to wrap up all loose ends and basically concludes on a happy note.

“Zoolander” was one of the best movies of the early 2000s, and so a sequel that comes along some 15 years down the line was never going to compare. Still, I expected more from “Zoolander 2” than a few laughs that I had to wait almost two hours for. “Zoolander 2” will be worth a look when it comes to Netflix, but otherwise I can’t recommend this relatively weak sequel. 


Edward Pankowski is life editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at edward.pankowski@uconn.edu.