When one down-and-out former superstar male model asks another, “what happened to us?” it’s easy to consider the query as some meta commentary from the actors about playing characters in a 15-year-old film sequel.
So perhaps he’s referencing the extended absence. Or the random reappearance. Maybe he’s offering a critique of a culture in love with itself. Or maybe it’s about nostalgia, that everything in the pop culture world is cyclical, and it all comes back around for better and worse.
To paraphrase another character, who can more accurately describe the film, “it’s all stupid.” There is no commentary, no satire, and indeed no meaning in Zoolander 2, which brings back Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson as a pair of brain-dead, self-absorbed posers. Thrust into 2016 after 15 years of isolation, these two characters are faced with a world they don’t understand and one where they’re not important. Based on this second installment, there may be another extended absence coming soon.
Both also shout from a rooftop, pondering their identity. Directed by Stiller on a script he co-wrote, Zoolander 2 has nothing to do with purpose in life either, even though both friends are seeking to regain stardom as well as mend broken relationships. No, if there was any part of the movie that summed up the entire attitude, it’s an ongoing joke about Hansel (Wilson) losing interest in his eclectic orgy group that he has shacked up with in the middle of the desert for the last few years.
That’s because the movie itself is one big celebration for those involved and no one else, a masturbatory sideshow of celebrity cameos, bad accents, mugging, and self-promotion.
Coming out of a self-imposed exile after killing his wife and losing his son to child services, Derek Zoolander finds himself suspiciously reunited with Hansel in Rome, invited to a mysterious event by incomprenhebsible fashion icon Alexayna Atoz (Kristen Wiig). There an evil plan hatched by Zoolander’s former nemesis Mugatu (Will Ferrell, who has the funniest lines) involving Zoolander’s son, and Penelope Cruz joins the fight as a model-turned-Interpol agent, of course.
It doesn’t make sense, but the problem rests less in the lack of coherence and more in the prevailing inconsistency with what are passing as jokes. A chaotic plot is punctuated with some head scratching diatribes, mildly offensive jabs, and a few genuine laughs. Low-brow digs prevail, but a few more subtle references are thrown into the jumble.
Fashion icons join the slew of celebrity appearances, some more subtle than others, most more awkward than not, but there is nothing to suggest this film is actually poking fun at itself. Instead it’s a whole bunch of exclusive tomfoolery with those involved having fun doing whatever they want. They should have brought the audience in on the joke.