By Michael Kaye
Zoolander 2 (Review)
I've mentioned this a few times before, but comedy sequels are some of the hardest movies to make, and making a good movie is already a challenging feat in general. Most of the time they fail to capture the magic of the original, and the only major exceptions to this rule that I can think of are Shrek 2, 22 Jump Street, Hot Shots Part Deux and Christmas Vacation! These movies have not only overcome that hurdle, but I find them highly superior to their predecessors! Given this probability of success, I was both excited and nervous for Ben Stiller to revive one of his best films not named Tropic Thunder with Zoolander 2!
Here's the story. Derek and Hansel are modelling again when an opposing company attempts to take them out from the business.
I've got good news and bad news. The bad news is that, inevitably, this movie doesn't quite have the same magic as the original. The good news is that I still find it to be a good movie, and there are three things that save this from becoming another disastrous nostalgia revival like Blues Brothers 2000. Here are my positives and negatives.
*Possible spoilers ahead*
The first saving grace of this movie is Ben Stiller! He's not only the star of the film, but he's also the director, and had a hand in writing and producing as well. Clearly Stiller is very passionate about this franchise, as rarely does the film come off as simply a cash grab. His commitment to the character is quite commendable, and although a lot of time has past, he and Owen Wilson's Hansel still have plenty of great chemistry to spare!
Out of the 4 writers credited for the screenplay, the one who injected the most life into the movie was Nicholas Stoller! For those who didn't know, Stoller is not only famous for directing Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Neighbors, but he also worked on the screenplays for the recent Muppet movies, the first of which was a nostalgia revival of the classic characters. That sort of energy is exactly what this movie needed, and exactly what Stoller delivered, especially towards the second half of the film, which I find infinitely better than the first! I really liked the idea of satirizing ancient prophesies, and the pay off was a great callback to the ending of the first film!
Finally, the glue that holds this movie together was Will Farrell's Jacobim Mugatu, one of his best characters next to Ron Burgundy! Most people who didn't even like the first Zoolander admit that Mugatu was the best of the movie, and to not include him in the sequel would have been a damn shame! He is almost single handedly the reason why I enjoyed the second half of the movie better than the first, starting with his prison escape scene and ending with a fantastic climax!
Unfortunately, that's all the nice things I have to say about the movie. Now for the part I was dreading, and that's talking about the negatives.
Let's start with the number one goal of any comedy, to make people laugh. I keep praising the second half of the film, because that's where they decided to hold all the jokes. The first half, however, is a chore to sit through. There was chuckle here and there, and I especially enjoyed seeing Justin Bieber get killed, but hardly anything worked, the worst being the lazy way the events between the two films are established.
I mentioned how great it was seeing Mugatu in the second half of the film, but what really bummed me out was the limited screen time of Stiller's wife Christine Taylor as Matilda Jeffries. I don't necessarily think she's a great character per se, but killing her character off seemed like an excuse re-hash some elements from the first movie, one of which involving introducing a new love interest played by Penélope Cruz.
Finally, with the exception of one cameo that worked phenomenally well for Hansel's story arc, all the others were a waste. For example, one of them was Neil DeGrass Tyson, and the only reason he had for showing up was to basically add one more meme to the ever growing pile that's accumulated ever since he first became famous. And it wasn't even a good punchline either, just a simple "Hey, I exist" reference even Robot Chicken was too good for.
The Verdict: 6 out of 10 stars
Everyone relax, Zoolander 2 is not the disaster critics are making it out to be, but it's also not as good as I had hoped. I'll admit part of me is a little worried that Ben Stiller is loosing his fire as a director, but as long as he keeps working with talented people, maybe we'll see something at least half as good as Tropic Thunder. Your mileage may very with this one folks. If you liked the first Zoolander, then go ahead and check out the sequel. But if you didn't, this one won't win you over...