Zoolander 2

ZOOLANDER 2: Starring: Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Penelope Cruz, Justin Bieber, Benedict Cumberbatch, Will Ferrell, and Kristen Wiig. Directed by Ben Stiller. Rated M (Sexual references, violence and coarse language). 102 min.

This American comedy is a sequel to the popular 2001 film, "Zoolander" (1). After 15 years, Stiller's parody of high fashion returns. The film is filled with celebrity cameo performances, and includes brief appearances by Justin Bieber, Benedict Cumberbatch, Sting, Alexander Wang, Naomi Campbell, Anna Wintour, and many others.

The original film showed Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller) as a dim-witted, good-natured fashion- model, who became the unwitting pawn of corrupt executives in the fashion industry. In this film, his intelligence hasn't changed. He is still remarkably dumb.

Celebrities in the fashion world and pop-stars are being assassinated, and Zoolander is recruited back into the world of high fashion to help. He is seduced to come out of retirement to try to stop the killing, but to reconnect with, and save, his own son, Derek Flatlander Jr. whose life is being threatened by Mugatu (Will Ferrell), who describes himself as "a fashion genius".

Key actors in the original movie resume their original roles. Stiller returns to act and direct, and other original cast members, Owen Wilson and Will Ferrell join him. This film's plot has Stiller teaming up with Penelope Cruz, and Owen Wilson to outwit an evil Will Ferrell

Zoolander (1) had a bite to it and was sharply entertaining. This sequel combines humour with action violence and language to match. The celebrity culture that was satirised in the original film gets an even heavier, and sillier, beating in this one. Off-colour jokes sweep by, and the targets of the film are ridiculously broad. Beauty, narcissism, self-identity, obesity, self-obsessed "looks" that are fashionable, Hollywood action-movies that are popular, and responsible parenting all come in for satirical comment. But the one target that rises above all of them is fashion.

The unusual thing about this movie is that those who have made it, acted in it, produced it, wrote it, and directed it have obviously engaged intensely with the very industry that the film mercilessly satirises. It is almost as if the victim of the movie's bite comes back again and again for more drubbing. At the end of the movie, one doesn't think for a moment that the movie's relentless parody of the fashion world will make any difference at all to the self-aggrandisement, or essential narcissism of the fashion industry itself. It is almost as if the fashion industry is too secure in what it knows it has created, and the movie takes advantage of this fact in every way that it can. One suspects, though, that there may not be a "Zoolander 3", because this sequel may prove to be enough.

The satirical targets come thick and fast in this film, which opens with the assassination of Justin Bieber, who nevertheless manages to send a "selfie" of himself before he dies. Urban architectural planning comes under attack when a hotel building being shown is described as made entirely out of human waste. Benedict Cumberbatch supplies his own gender-parody, when the film makes a satirical pass at "Danish Girl" (2015), which seems not exactly in Cumberbatch's own self-interest. At other points, it delivers an "anti-tattoo" message, and plays around with the notion of harmless orgies.

For all its irreverence, roaming targets, pyrotechnical support, coloured light-displays, throbbing musical score, and zany scenarios, the movie is very inventive. It is hard not to be impressed at the ingenuity that lies behind its fantasy embellishments. Single images may offend, but the originality of its relentless fantasising is an impression that lasts.

Peter W. Sheehan is associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting

Paramount Pictures

Released February 11th., 2016


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