In September 2001, a comedy classic opened in cinemas. Unfortunately, thanks to Al Qaeda, noone went to see it. Albeit coming in second place for box office in its opening weekend it drew in a paltry $15M and went on to do a feeble $61M worldwide. Ben Stiller must have been fuming. Fortunately, DVD sales and word of mouth brought with it a post-release revenue stream and its positive reputation.

Ridiculously good looking… and Penelope Cruz isn’t bad either!

Now, 14 years later, the team are back in Zoolander 2 (or 2-lander). Conscious of its history, the film starts with a hilarious spoof on 9-11 (too soon?), when Derek Zoolander’s ‘Center for Kids Who Can’t Read Good’ in New York collapses into the Hudson with devastating personal consequences.

Stylish in defeat. ‘Old’ Derek and ‘Lameé’ Hansel

Wind forwards to the present day and both Zoolander and his equally ridiculously good-looking colleague Hansel are both living reclusive lives away from the fashion world. In terms of the ‘plot’ that brings them back into the real world, its all pretty incomprehensible – a loosely linked set of components:

  • There is a string of assassinations of pop stars, starting with Bieber (never too soon), all of who die pulling a Zoolander pose;
  • There is evil fashion guru Mugatu (Will Ferrell), incarcerated in a high security fashion prison (an enormous thimble with associated needle!) but plotting with his fashion-house accomplice Alexanya Atoz (Kristen Wiig) to find the fountain of youth. (This plot riffs rather clumsily on a ‘Da Vinci code’ theme);
  • There is Derek’s search for his estranged son; 
  • All tied together with Valentina Valencia (Penelope Cruz) as the ex-swimsuit model cum Interpol agent (Fashion division) trying to get to the bottom of everything. 

Like I said, incomprehensible.

It will come as no surprise, dear viewer, that Ben Stiller had a hand in writing this script!

The film is absolutely stuffed full of cameos. Some of these are hilarious – Kiefer Sutherland’s in particular, channelling a gay Jack Bauer. Many others are ‘stars’ largely unknown to non-Americans and/or dedicated followers of fashion. Unfortunately too many times in the film the cameos have the effect of bringing the comedy/action to a grinding halt, particularly in the finale.

All for one and one for all. Cumberbatch, a long way from Sherlock and Khan.

On the plus side, the film is gorgeous to look at (and here I’m not JUST talking about Penelope Cruz in a red-leather bike suit). It appears at times to be more like a Bond film with its swooping location shots, sharp editing and clever camera work. It also successfully riffs, Austin Powers-style, on the tech-changes that have happened since our heroes have been absent from the world: small phones are now out; huge iPads are in! And (for me) the 90’s ad for ‘Aqua Vitae’, with Zoolander and Naomi Campbell, was the funniest thing I’ve seen at the cinema in a long while.

Ferrell had fallen asleep in the tattoo parlour and now he was pissed: he’d only come in for “Mum” on his arm.

Whilst it was enjoyable as a long-overdue return to these characters, some of the jokes were more miss than hit. While it’s fair to say my wife enjoyed it enormously, I found it rather more tepid. An opportunity missed. Given that we were the ONLY people in the cinema on a Wednesday evening watching it, it has appeared to be a miss at the box office as well: in a curious case of history repeating itself, it’s opening weekend box office was also $15M.

Fad Rating:  FFF.

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