I remember the feeling I got while watching “Anchorman 2”: a sick, sinking feeling. I realized I was watching a carbon copy of the original movie, with the creative volume cranked to 11. Bits that were funny in the first movie seemed far less funny in the sequel. Bryan Fantana’s closet of hilariously named colognes and musks turned into a cabinet of condoms. Ron Burgundy’s jazz flute performance added ice skating to the mix. The battle between news channels turned into an obscenely overstaged affair with a cringe-worthy number of celebrity cameos. It was probably when Kanye West showed up I plunged my head into my hands and asked, “Why is this happening?” It’s because someone is under the impression comedy sequels have to mirror the exact plot of the original rather than carve out some new creative territory.
“Zoolander 2” suffers from the same maladies as “Anchorman 2.” It is a sequel without purpose—a movie attempting to recapture the magic of the original. Like “Anchorman 2,” “Zoolander 2” stretches its already too-thin premise to horrible lengths. Like an elderly woman who’s had three face lifts too many, it’s painful to look on and wonder why on earth someone would do this to themselves. This is an awful movie. It’s truly terrible in a way that makes me question whether or not the first film’s success was accidental. I liked the original “Zoolander.” It was stupid and fun, chock full of quotable lines and hilarious scenes, and featured so great comedic performers. The sequel has all the same ingredients, but all are so generously poured the whole dish tastes foul.
The film starts off by curb-stomping the original film’s happy ending. It turns out the school that famous male model Derrick Zoolander (Ben Stiller) had built collapsed. It killed his wife and permanently scarred his best friend Hansel (Owen Wilson). Derrick’s son was taken by the state due to Zoolander’s poor parenting. So he went into exile, while Hansel set off on a quest to find himself. Ultimately, he ended up in an orgy with Kiefer Sutherland (don’t ask).
Derrick and Hansel are brought back into the world of fashion but quickly realize they’re no longer the beautiful, world-conquering male models of yesterday. They are both relics of another age, laughed at and disrespected by the same people who once hailed them as gods.
Zoolander and Hansel are brought in by the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) to help try and break a case where famous people are being killed. In the victim’s final moments, they strike one of Derrick’s famous male-model poses.
There is something or someone sinister behind the scenes pulling the strings. Someone is obsessed with destroying Zoolander—and guess who it is? Nailed it: Mugato (Will Ferrell). Yes, the same Mugato from the first film. Every character from the first film has to appear in the second, else we wouldn’t know it was a sequel to the original.
I wasn’t expecting a lot from “Zoolander 2.” My own personal expectations were remarkably low. The only prerequisite to excuse the existence of “Zoolander 2” was for the film to be funny. But it’s not just “not funny”—it’s agonizing. The jokes are so stale. It’s been nearly 15 years since the original, and most of the jokes feel like they need a good dusting. Stiller’s once humorous character feels like a long-running gag who doesn’t know when to quit. Maybe it’s this ludicrous spy-like quest he’s been sent on. Perhaps it’s the grotesque scale the character has been enlarged to.
This is a movie where almost nothing works—like nothing. The jokes fall flat, the celebrity cameos feel wasted and fairly useless. It’s strange watching a movie and thinking, So much work went into this flaming, stanky pile of garbage. I began to feel embarrassed for the participants. I spent the last 10 minutes awkwardly cringing through cameos from the fashion world and thinking, Oh, Anna Wintour: You’re better than this!
To be fair, everything is better than “Zoolander 2.” I’ve seen funnier documentaries about the plague and more engaging 10-hour films about drying paint. “Zoolander” didn’t need a sequel, and it didn’t take more than 5 minutes to figure that out.
In fashion terms, “Zoolander 2” is gauche.