I go to the cinema with my daughter quite often, and for such films I have a different set of standards. If it’s something we both enjoy, then I’m grateful for that in itself and that separates it from a critical perspective. So, although I’d heard Zoolander 2 was a stinker, I was prepared to give it the critical Get Out of Jail Free card. Luckily my daughter hated it, and asked to leave before the end, so now, I am free to unleash on it, and I’m snatching back that card.
As literary agents who wade through unsolicited manuscripts can attest, the quality of many books can be gauged from reading the opening page. So with Zoolander 2, the opening sequence – which features a cameo from Justin Bieber, being gunned down at the end of a Mission Impossible type chase – tells you everything you need to know. This could be funny if it mocked Bieber, but it feels more like an ingratiating attempt to get as many cameos in as possible. And it does, each celebrity more annoying than then next, more desperate, more back-slapping.
There are many ways to got with a comedy – narrative driven with gentle laughs, character focused, satirical. Zoolander 2 rejects all of these, with an overblown, ridiculous plot, and no real characters. Which is fine, that worked in the first movie. But if you go that route, there is no reason for the viewer to sit in the cinema except gags. They have no involvement in the story or characters, so those gags had better come along thick and fast. Having a celebrity appear, say something bland, and disappear is not a gag. In fact, not only is it not funny, but it becomes offensive, us plebs are all supposed to sit here and admire the lovely people. Aren’t they all great? Thankyou for letting us look at you having what you think is fun. Oh, and Sting? Get lost.
By the time Will Ferrell escapes from a high security prison (it’s not a spoiler, because you can’t spoil shit), I had become distracted by pondering how much this lumpen, crass, overblown dollop must have cost. I felt insulted by that waste of money. The main joke in the film is that Zoolander is fashion model who is now out of date, and with its boob jokes, and desperate sexual innuendo, that’s exactly how this film felt. This film is like a cool friend you knew in college, who shows up one night. Tour pleased to see them, so you take them out with your friends for the evening. The college friend spends the whole night making dirty jokes and bragging about how much they earn, and who they know. Your friends are all looking at you with “who is this loser?” expressions. You shrug hopelessly, thinking, they used to be so cool, maybe I was wrong.