Derek Zoolander returns to our screens for a belated sequel 15 years after the original became a cult hit. Comedy sequels are notoriously hard to pull off especially once the cultural zeitgeist has moved on, what was once hip and fresh becomes derivative and sad. So it must be said there are new ideas here and some decent laughs, Stiller and co. are prepared to even develop these shallow characters and recognise the passing of time.
To that end the film opens with a montage of events of the past few years to get us caught up to speed. Zoolander opened in cinemas on the heels of September 11, 2001 and inexplicably imagery in this montage recalls those events while showing the Derek Zoolander Centre for Kids Who Can’t Read Good collapsed in a tragic accident which killed love interest Matilda Jeffries and disfigured Hansel (He’s So Hot Right Now!) McDonald. Ripping up the happy ending of the first film is necessary but killing off a love interest to introduce a new one is a tired trope for Hollywood. None the less this proves the catalyst for Derek losing custody of his son and becoming a recluse. Now in the present day the former model is enticed back into the fashion industry in order to prove himself as a contributing member of society so he can regain custody of his son. Someone is killing off famous singers who all sport Blue Steel as they pass. Interpol Fashion Agent Valentina Valencia believes there is a connection that Zoolander might be able to help with before more murders occur.
The film is funniest when developing things from the original in an organic way and when referencing how culture has changed. Whether that is Benedict Cumberbatch’s androgynous model All or pointing out that smart phones are growing larger as opposed to years ago when the cool thing was to have a smaller mobile. Too many cameos of the fashion industry show up making the joke too inclusive perhaps although Sting and Kiefer Sutherland are two of the best additions to this sequel. Accepting the characters are older too and having them deal with parenthood is a natural progression but ultimately the film is not as fun or as fresh as the original. A handful of lines are worth remembering whereas the original was endlessly quotable. Kristen Wiig mocking Donatella Versace and the return of Will Ferrel as Jacobim Mugatu are good but the best moments have already been seen in the trailer and Penelope Cruz despite appearing in a red leather biker outfit fails to make much of an impression here (Christine Taylor fared so much better in the original), she is severely under used.
There are incredibly talented people who worked on this and they didn’t lazily just rehash what came before. They told a new story and it has some funny moments. Comparisons to the original may be to the detriment of the film; audience members for whom this is the first introduction to the character may be more forgiving. The death of Matilda seems unnecessary and unfunny but it does reveal that Stiller is not afraid of dark humour and for some may be so random that they enjoy that anything is on the table moving forward. Anchorman 2 though seemed to fare better as a belated sequel to a comedy cult comedy classic. By comparison there is no ‘Cruise Control’ scene in this movie unless you count the whole thing.