Thursday, February 11, 2016

Another visit from Derek Zoolander

Ben Stiller revives a character that should have been left alone.

The original Zoolander (2001) became a cult favorite in the days when you still could find a Blockbuster store at which you could rent a weekend's full of dumb comedies. Here we are, 15 years later, and you'll have to go to a multiplex -- at least for a while -- to catch the even dumber sequel, Zoolander 2.

But there's dumb funny, and just plain dumb, and after you chuckle at renewing your acquaintance with the movie's collection of "ridiculously good-looking" dopes, there's not much left to tickle the funny bone in this amped-up rehash.

I suppose ardent fans of the first movie will turn out, but despite the return of Ben Stiller (as Derek Zoolander), Owen Wilson (as Hansel), Will Ferrell (as Mugatu) and the addition of Penelope Cruz (as an Interpol agent, fashion police division), this one proves overproduced and undernourished.

The movie opens with the collapse of the Derek Zoolander Center for Kids Who Can't Read Good and Who Want to Learn to Do Other Stuff Good, Too. The building, a holdover from the first movie, falls into the East River.

A series of newscasters -- Katie Couric among them -- tell us that Derek's wife (Christine Taylor) died in the collapse. An incompetent father, Derek soon loses his son to social services and retreats to a cabin in the frozen wilds of extreme northern New Jersey.

He's so dispirited, he can't even do his patented Blue Steel look anymore.

We also learn that Hansel, Derek's modeling rival, has retreated from the limelight; he's ashamed to show his face, which was scarred when the Zoolander Center crumbled. Hansel now lives in the Malibu desert among of tribe of misfit nomads that includes Kiefer Sutherland and others who try to buoy Hansel's by catering to his taste for orgies.

Derek and Hansel soon are summoned to Rome for a big modeling job that could resurrect their faded careers. Zoolander goes so that he can prove he's capable of raising his 11-year-old son, played by Cyrus Arnold.

A series of cameos from the likes of Kristin Wiig, Sting and Benedict Cumberbatch doesn't do much to add merriment.

Justin Theroux, who appeared in the first movie, also turns up, as does Billy Zane, but the movie almost seems as if it's satirizing itself rather than poking fun at the world of high fashion.

The first movie had some difficulty expanding what began as a sketch into a full movie, and this one struggles even more with a Rome-based story involving the murder of pop stars and a plan to eliminate such fashion icons such as Vogue's Anna Wintour, Tommy Hilfiger , Vera Wang, Valentino, Marc Jacobs and others. Perhaps because they're good natured, these gods of fashion appear in the movie; they may live to regret it.

And, no, Donald Trump who did cameo duty in the first movie, skipped this one.

The fun wears out quicker than a fashion trend, leaving us wondering why anyone thought it would be a good idea to revive characters who should have been allowed to remain favorites of their zealous fans while leaving the rest of the world alone.

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