Sequels can be many things. They can be good…sometimes. Or they can be superficial rehashes. Or they can be pure nostalgia pieces. Or they can be re-imaginings with topical insertions to try and bring an old property into the present day, where these insertions take the place of original comedy.
Zoolander 2 falls mostly into the latter category. Justin Beiber, Uber, and Susan Boyle are featured in early gags, in moments meant to hook the viewer in. These “topical” moments (Susan Boyle = topical?) feel forced throughout the film, and they only get worse and more prevalent as the film progresses.
The film follows model Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller) in a quest to find his son, who is taken away from him by child services after the death of his wife.
Given its strong comedic cast, almost none of the characters work. Kristen Wiig’s character is purposefully imperceptible, but it is more grating than it is funny. Not to mention that her talent is wasted on a cursory character. Benedict Cumberbatch’s androgynous All is more amusing in appearance than in action.
Will Ferrell and Kyle Mooney have worthwhile screentime, but they fail to redeem the ensemble.
And Penelope Cruz is relegated to the unfortunate role of a one-dimensional piece of sex appeal.
Wilson and Stiller slip back into their characters well, but the lacking script doesn’t service them very well at all.
Topical as it is, the film already appears dated. A soundtrack of currently popular genre pastiches and references to hashtags bog the film down with unnecessary gags.
Incessant celebrity cameos don’t help the cause any. Billy Zane as a guru-like messenger is effective at first, as is Kiefer Sutherland as part of a very interesting group. But with each additional cameo the shtick becomes old and entirely forced.
On top of everything, we are given unsettling camera work. Tight framings on faces comprise over half of the shots, it seems.
When all is said and done, neither the whole nor its parts live up to whatever expectations a sequel to Zoolander coming 15 years after its initial release could possibly have.
A tepid script with no narrative intrigue is the main culprit, but an attempt to be topical with references and celebrity cameos is all the worse.
Who thought putting Fred Armisen’s face on a CG manifestation of a child’s body was a good idea?
As always, thanks for reading!
Have you seen Zoolander 2? If so, what did you think? Let me know in the comments!
—Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)