Rated: PG 13
Three Out of Five Stars
I thought 2001’s “Zoolander” was OK. I’ve met people who can quote lines from it with a passion, like they were quoting from a religious text, or a Shakespearean sonnet.
These are the people who will be thrilled with "Zoolander 2," and stars Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson and Will Ferrell’s ability to say the most ridiculous things while staying in character. It’s what great comic actors do. Here, however, it’s not always funny.
Minor spoiler alert: Justin Bieber shows up and immediately dies. It’s in the trailer, it’s in the commercials, it has been discussed publicly. I really wish it hadn’t been. It’s a terrific joke, one that helps drive the movie, and they gave it away for free. Bad form.
In the meantime, our hero, Stiller’s male model Derek Zoolander, has been in self-imposed exile in “deep Northern New Jersey.” He’s been there since child services took away his son after a video of Derek being a terrible father went viral.
Derek was tasked with raising little Derek after accidentally (sort of) killing his wife, Matilda. Her death is part of a solid joke I don’t want to give away here.
Hansel (Owen Wilson) is also in exile, but he’s in a relationship with quite a few people. This is another of the movie’s more effective jokes I choose not to spoil. Ultimately, they’ll join forces with Valencia, and Derek, once again, will have to find a way to become self-actualized, forgive himself and become who he was always meant to be. I guess. Does it really matter?
Will Ferrell returns as the villain Mugatu and neither hurts nor adds to the movie. Indeed, by the time he shows up, most of the best jokes have been executed. But he’s Will Ferrell and, inevitably, his level of commitment practically forces you to laugh, especially when he’s in a scene with Kristen Wiig, who plays Alexanya Atoz, one of the world’s greatest fashion designers, a character clearly inspired by Donatella Versace.
Many of the cameos are terrific, while some of them elicit almost no reaction. Kiefer Sutherland’s turn here was, by far, my favorite.
The strength of "Zoolander 2" is when a joke hits, it hits hard. The weakness is when a joke misses, it bombs badly. Unfortunately, there are a lot of misses, but enough hits to make it worth your time.