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Movie Review: 'Zoolander 2'

While the return of Derek and Hansel might have taken too long, the results are still entertaining.

Review by Matt Cummings

Comedy sequels have earned a well-deserved stigma of just not being as good or as funny as their older siblings. The truth is sequels of any kind are nearly impossible to pull off, whether it be over-heightened expectations or merely the same elements incorrectly used. Zoolander 2 is just such a beast, a film that's a decade too late, but still manages to pull off a ton of memorable gags and enough cameos to overflow a fashion runway.

When world famous pop stars are murdered by a shadowy organization, Interpol Agent Valentina (Penelope Cruz) suspects that their final poses on Instagram look suspiciously like those of fashion icon Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller). Unfortunately, he's been out of reach for over a decade, living in seclusion after losing the rights to his child and witnessing the death of his wife. His friend Hansel (Owen Wilson) has also been living away from the runway, now a part of a multi-marriage family in the desert. But when the two are offered a chance to return to the fashion limelight, they find themselves mocked as hasbeens. Determined to reunite with his son, Zoolander, Hansel, and Valentina join forces to uncover the mastermind behind the murders, which might include their nemesis Mugatu (Will Ferrell).

Let's not mince words: Zoolander 2 is both exactly what we wanted and somewhat of a disappointment. Anyone who thought such a special film like the original could be duplicated is a moron. True, some jokes don't land, others thud; but it's wildly hilarious in many parts, with Stiller and Wilson cutting loose once again as idiotic manifestations of the world that made them so popular. Both really get the aura of their characters, picking up right where they left off, all while bringing new talent to the screen that impresses. Benedict Cumberbatch is simply terrific as the androgynous All, and Kristen Wiig as weird fashion plate Alexanya Atoz is amazing; her decision to replace all of the vowels in her dialogue results in a new kind of comedy that could outlast this followup.

Director Stiller returns to helm Zoolander 2, surrounding his cast with perhaps the most cameos ever in a film. Justin Beiber as a rock star being shot with about a thousand bullets represents an almost cathartic experience for audiences, while several of fashion's top designers show up in the climax as members of a dark society bent on capturing the essence of the first supermodel, No, I'm not kidding: the reveal comes off like watching an idiot's version of the Free Masons from National Treasure. Whether all of the comedy really works here is up for debate, but you can't blame Stiller and company from trying. When they fail, it's with a pretty spectacular, but there's more than enough attempts here to give everyone at least a decent laugh.

I've been a strong critic of Will Ferrell over the recent past, a comedic genius who's been less than that in many of his most recent vehicles. But in Zoolander 2, he returns perfectly to Mugatu, demonstrating that perhaps his key is to land great supporting roles. Cruz does her part as well, including a perfect reveal as a defamed swimsuit model whose breasts grew too big to maintain her career. She and Stiller recreate the over-the-top dramatics that were pinnacle of the original Zoolander and in this way Writers Stiller and Justin Theroux manage to keep the audience entertained with their return to that soap opera type of environment.

And yet for all the foolishness and expansion of its universe, I'm not sure if audiences will find Hansel and Derek all that funny. Society has become noticeably more grim since the original, when their performances were honestly the funniest, most ridiculous thing we had seen since Ace Ventura. But that doesn't mean Zoolander 2 should be skipped; it's got a mean streak when it comes to mocking the industry of supermodels and fashion, and the combo of Wilson/Stiller/Ferrell still works. It's apologetically absurd, fiercely silly, and just what audiences should expect.

Zoolander 2 is filled with exactly what everyone loved about the original: models acting dumb, bad guys acting nefarious, all wrapped up in a ridiculous amount of cameos. Does it feel like something a 2004 release instead of 2016 one? Yes, but that's the whole point. Zoolander 2 won't win any awards, but you'll laugh enough aplenty as you try to figure out why this wasn't made sooner.

Zoolander 2 is PG-13 for crude and sexual content, a scene of exaggerated violence, and brief strong language and has a runtime of 102 minutes.

Discuss this review with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms, and follow author Matt Cummings at @mfc90125.

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