Sometimes, it’s best to simply leave something buried. Sure, Zoolander was a fantastically gonzo little comedy that hit a certain temperature of stupid that hasn’t quite been replicated, but perhaps that’s the point. You can’t replicate it, it was a perfect storm of original ideas and lucky breaks that it just worked. However, sure enough, Ben Stiller has decided to try, since keeping the character limited to one of the most entertaining cult classics of the 2000s just isn’t quite enough for him. This comes at a great detriment to us, because Zoolander 2 (or perhaps Zoolander No. 2) is a particularly special kind of unfunny. It isn’t just a series of swings and misses, but a barrage of wild lunges that end up with the bat in the air and a concussion or two in the crowd.
We pick up with Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller) years after his modeling career has ended. Isolated himself to a small log cabin, he’s called back into action by Billy Zane when the government needs his help. A series of celebrities (most recently Justin Bieber) have been murdered, all dying with Derek’s signature blue steal look on their faces. As such, Derek must team up with Agent Melanie Valentina (Penelope Cruz) and reunite with his old friend Hansel (Owen Wilson) to find the one responsible.
For a film that spent over a decade in development hell, not one of these actors seem to be remotely enjoying themselves. Stiller and Wilson, who have always had an easy chemistry, essentially spend an entire film taking us through an awkward lunch where two friends realize there’s a reason they haven’t seen each other in a while. There are hardly even any gags for them to react off of, as most of the film coasts off the two of them making faces and pronouncing things wrong. It’s really a bit sad. Meanwhile, Cruz seems even more confused, as Stiller has seemingly made her show up without writing a role for her. As such, all she has to do is either roll her eyes at the stupidity of everything, or re-assure Derek that his dumb ass can in fact solve this mystery. Meanwhile, Kristen Wiig is hardly worth mentioning in a role so small and silly you might miss her, and Will Ferrell isn’t even let into the fold until well over an hour in. Once he shows up, he really has nothing to do but yell a bunch of clearly improvised lines over the action. It’s a film that thinks that the mere presence of these characters will garner laughs, even if they’re not really doing anything.
There is clearly a higher budget and more toys to work with this time around, and yet there only seems to be a few jokes. Every so often, there is a funny gag, or cameo, but whoever the trailer really utilized everything he had to work with and showed it all to you already. The funniest moment by a landslide comes early on, from a remarkably strange (and already spoiled) cameo from Benedict Cumberbatch as a transgender model named All. Sure, some might find it to be a bit over the line, but it’s really the only thing that reaches the absurd heights of the original mostly because of what an incredible sport Cumberbatch is. Beyond that, it’s mostly just pulling out trends and lines that will appeal to the Vine generation, which will be dated by the time the movie ends it’s run, and excruciating on a Blu Ray re-watch. How Stiller, who can be such an intelligent and on the pulse comedic actor/director when he wants to be (Tropic Thunder anyone?) turned out such a lazy product is beyond me.
The best thing I can say about Zoolander 2 beyond it’s occasionally funny moments, is that it’s never insulting. I was reasonably held over, but as I look back, that was mostly because I was desperately waiting for it to become as good as I so badly wanted it to be. Frankly, it’s one of the lamest comedy sequels I’ve ever seen attempted. It plays more like an over-long fake trailer than an actual movie, and doesn’t nearly justify the amount of time it took to become a reality. So for all of those Zoolander fans who are about to go out and see their long awaited sequel, relax, and don’t do it.