The original Zoolander has an odd history: Released only two weeks after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the film was first met with controversy thanks to a plot that involved assassins killing a head of state. It landed with a big, loud thud at the box office. Watching the original Zoolander last week, it’s kind of amazing that there was ever any controversy about this movie at all, but, as we know, that was a unique time for everyone. Then slowly and surely, Zoolander achieved that kind of fun “cult status” and is looked back on fondly. That’s a nice place for a movie to be.
I’m not sure that really means we needed a sequel. But, hey, if it’s good, why not, right? I mean, how bad could it be? Anchorman was in a similar situation and that movie produced a pretty good sequel. So, hey, let’s try this!
There are so many cameos in Zoolander No. 2 that I honestly lost count of them all. For awhile, I thought it might be fun to keep track of them as the ticked by. But, by mid-movie, I was beaten into submission. I now think there are cameos everywhere. As I’m typing this, I half expect the lead singer of fun. to walk in the front door and say hello. Then I will say, “Oh my gosh, it’s the lead singer of fun.” – because these are all those types of cameos (or this type of movie), where the name of the famous person has to be said out loud. When Sting shows up, a title card says “Sting,” followed by a riff of “Roxanne,” just in case there was any doubt that this is Sting.
If I made a bad movie and I was famous enough to convince famous people to be in it to maybe hide the fact it’s bad, I would do that. It’s the equivalent of layering yourself up with underarm deodorant when you haven’t showered in three days. “Well, if I put enough Speed Stick on, maybe no one will notice?” (I swear I’ve never been in the position personally. No, really. I promise. Why are you looking at me like that? Do I stink?) It’s just like spraying air freshener on your cat’s litter box instead of actually cleaning out the cat poop logs that are making the smell. So, what we are left with is a turd with a smattering of celebrity Speed Stick plastered all over it.
That reads kind of mean. The truth is, I really wish this movie were good. I was looking forward to it! And I appreciate the fact that Stiller has been trying to get it made for so long – in an effort to appease all of those Zoolander cult followers who have stuck with these characters for 15 years now. It’s a nice sentiment. Sure, he wants to make money, too, but it’s nice that he likes this property this much to fight this long to get it made… I kind of hate that it’s bad.
(As an aside, between Deadpool and Zoolander No. 2 coming out this weekend, what a big moment for Wham!)
There is a plot to this movie. Justin Bieber is murdered, which is part of a string of other pop singers also being murdered. (Drake, Madonna, and Bruce Springsteen also meet grizzly fates.) Somehow this all ties in with Derek Zoolander (I’m not sure I understand why exactly) who is now living in seclusion in “extreme northern New Jersey.” All of this brings Derek and Hansel (Owen Wilson) to Rome, where they team up with an Interpol Fashion Division officer, Melanie (Penelope Cruz). This is the first time Derek and Hansel have spoken since the Derek Zoolander Center For Children Who Can’t Read Good collapsed due to shoddy construction, killing Derek’s wife, Matilda (Christine Taylor), and damaging Hansel’s face. (I might be making this sound funnier than it is.)
Derek’s estranged teenage son, Derek Jr. (Cyrus Arnold), also lives in Rome and Mugatu (Will Ferrell) is trying to capture him because eating Derek Jr.’s heart is the Zoolander equivalent of drinking from the Fountain of Youth.
I’ve made this movie sound much more interesting than it is. The charm of the first movie was that it was all about this numbskull model who lucked his way into stopping an assassination attempt. (The whole part about Hansel thinking there were actual files hidden inside a computer still makes me laugh.) Here, it’s Derek and Hansel on some action mission with none of the heart and quadruple the cameos of the first movie. Honestly, I wish this movie was about Kyle Mooney’s Don Atari, who seems to be the only person who has the spirit from the first film.
If you are a fan of the original Zoolander, you will see this movie despite any warning. I understand that. But you shouldn’t. Just remember Zoolander is a cult favorite which means it’s seemed, at times, like something that only you liked. Remember it as it was, as it was meant to be. Because once you see Zoolander No. 2, it will be impossible to go back.
Mike Ryan lives in New York City and has written for The Huffington Post, Wired, Vanity Fair and New York magazine. He is senior entertainment writer at Uproxx. You can contact him directly on Twitter.