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'Zoolander 2' Film Review: 15 years later, Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson try to make Blue Steel fashionable again

February 12, 2016Ben MK

As a comedy duo, Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson have done it all, from comedies about crazy in-laws, to a film franchise about museum artifacts that come to life, to a remake of a '70s buddy cop TV show. Now the pair are out to recapture the magic of their most memorable team-up, 2001's Zoolander, reprising their roles as dim-witted male models out to save the world.

Last time around, the devious doings that set the plot into motion had to do with a scheme to assassinate a world leader. This time, it's a string of murders targeting the world's most beautiful stars, from Madonna to Justin Bieber. And since they've all seen it fit to post selfies of themselves in a pose reminiscent of "Blue Steel" in their dying moments, the head of Interpol's "Global Fashion Division," Valentina Valencia (Penélope Cruz), thinks there's only one man who can help them crack the case — former three-time Male Model of the Year Derek Zoolander (Stiller).

There's just one problem, though. Derek has gone M.I.A., retiring from the modeling industry and moving to an isolated log cabin in "extreme northern New Jersey" to sulk, after his world — that is, his "Derek Zoolander Center for Kids Who Can't Read Good, and Who Wanna Learn to Do Other Stuff Good, Too" — literally collapsed around him. Meanwhile, Hansel (Wilson) too has gone off the grid, living the life of a hippie hobo somewhere in the far reaches of the Malibu desert with his 11 significant others (including a mountain goat and Kiefer Sutherland).

Sure enough, all it takes is a well-timed visit from their old friend Billy Zane — and a holographic job offer from a ridiculously incoherent plastic surgery disaster named Alexanya Atoz (Kristen Wiig) — to coax both numbskulls out of their self-imposed exile, setting the stage for Derek and Hansel's triumphant (or, as it turns out, not so much) return to the world of high fashion. Of course, the runway gig is all just a diabolical ruse to get the pair to Rome, where murder mysteries, familial reconciliations and old nemesis Jacobim Mugatu (Will Ferrell) await.

If the storyline sounds utterly nonsensical, that's because it most assuredly is. But while the film does a commendable job setting up its various intersecting story threads, Stiller and co-writers Justin Theroux, Nicholas Stoller and John Hamburg are sadly unable — or perhaps unwilling — to follow through. Instead, they seem content with letting the movie devolve into a parade of celebrity cameos and stale humor, settling for recycled punchlines, annoying gags and nostalgic throwbacks as a lazy alternative to creating anything that might resemble real parody.

That being said, Zoolander 2 isn't completely devoid of redeeming qualities (after all, any movie that kills off Justin Bieber in a hail of machine gun fire can't be all bad). Still, when it comes to its ability to be genuinely witty, the film feels less like a cutting-edge trendsetter and more like a cheap designer knockoff. Yes, fans of the first movie will no doubt get a kick out of seeing their favorite characters on-screen again. But once the initial thrill wears off, Zoolander 2 becomes just another tiresome retread, the kind that went out of fashion many, many seasons ago.

Zoolander 2 releases February 12th, 2016 from Paramount Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of PG-13 for crude and sexual content, a scene of exaggerated violence, and brief strong language. Its runtime is 1 Hr. 42 Mins.

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