Zoolander 2 is really, really, really ridiculously bad.
Let’s face it, there was no point in making it, aside from the obvious—audiences have wallets. The first Zoolander—about a catastrophically stupid male model recruited to foil an assassination plot—became a cult hit and made “Blue Steel” (the original duck face) a household phrase. Ben Stiller’s deeply silly film threatened to overstay its welcome several times, but managed to work thanks to a loosey-goosey script and game performances by Stiller, Owen Wilson, Billy Zane, Will Ferrell, et al. But they couldn’t just leave well enough alone, could they? So now we are gifted with Zoolander 2, one of the most unnecessary sequels of all time (yes, I’ve seen Speed 2).
The biggest joke of Zoolander 2, arguably the only joke, is that lots of Ben Stiller’s celebrity pals agreed to be in it. So Justin Bieber, Willie Nelson, Susan Sarandon, Anna Wintour, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Katie Couric, among others, are trotted out at various points, to do…very little. Usually, the only joke is the mere fact of the cameo. It’s the “hey, look who we invited to the set today!” school of screenwriting.
The film finds Derek Zoolander (Stiller) in seclusion (or being a “hermit crab” as he puts it) after his Center For Kids Who Can’t Read Good and Want to Do Other Stuff Good, Too collapses, killing his wife and injuring his best friend Hansel (Wilson, letting his wardrobe and makeup do all the work for him this time). His son has been taken away from him because he was an unfit parent—“how did mom make it soft?” he demands in a flashback, staring helplessly at a box of uncooked pasta—and he has grown a long retirement beard, flecked with a majestic streak of grey. (The pasta flashback and Zoolander’s beard might actually be the funniest things in the whole movie.) Meanwhile, Hansel is living on some sort of commune and having sex with lots of men, women, and, uh, goats. Somehow, he’s impregnated them all, including Kiefer Sutherland, playing himself. (“Kiefer Sutherland, pregnant on a commune? Uproarious!”…said absolutely no one.)
Hansel and Derek are lured to Rome for a fashion show, where someone is killing off world-famous pop stars, including Bieber, who have all made a point of snapping a Blue-Steel-style selfie right before they die. It’s Interpol agent Valentina (Penelope Cruz) who thinks Derek might be the key to solving the murders. He agrees to help, as long as Valentina helps him find his now-teenage son (Cyrus Arnold), who turns out to be a bit chubby, much to Derek’s consternation. (Fat jokes! Exactly what this film was missing!)
Benedict Cumberbatch is also on hand as an androgynous model named All, a joke that would’ve seemed retro in 2006. Only SNL‘s Kyle Mooney, as a fashion designer who has invented his own hipster patois, and Will Ferrell, briefly reprising his role as fashion mogul/criminal mastermind Mugatu, manage to emerge from this mess relatively unscathed. Zoolander 2 is indulgent, lazy, and unnecessary. In this case, the “2” stands for the number of times you will laugh.