Actor-Director Ben Stiller Struggles to Generate Laughs with 'Zoolander 2'


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Fifteen years ago, Ben Stiller thoroughly satirized the fashion industry with Zoolander, a comedy that centers on Derek Zoolander, a top male fashion model that could stop a shuriken with his piercing “magnum” gaze. Reprising that role in Zoolander 2, Stiller struggles to recapture the magic of the original in the sequel, which opens area wide today. Directed by Stiller and written by John Hamburg, Justin Theroux, Stiller and Nick Stoller, the film fails to deliver more than a handful of laughs.

It begins promisingly enough, however, with the assassination of pop star Justin Bieber. A mysterious man on a motorcycle ruthlessly guns him down, though Justin still manages to post one last picture of himself on Instagram before he crokes. His gratuitous death will likely generation some applause (it certainly did at the screening we attended).

Stiller and Co. then go to great lengths to explain all that’s transpired since the conclusion of the first film. Both Derek and rival model Hansel McDonald (Owen Wilson) have left the fashion world. Devastated by the death of his wife, Derek has become a “hermit crab” and lives in a remote part of New Jersey. Hansel has retreated to the desert where he lives in a commune of sorts. The two come together when several of the "world's most beautiful people" are systematically assassinated with Derek’s "Blue Steel" look on their face. Interpol’s Melanie Valentina (Penelope Cruz) recruits Derek and Hansel to help her stop the killings.

But, as we know, Derek isn't the sharpest male model on the runway. He doesn't even know when he's being set up by fashion czar Alexanya Atoz (Kristen Wiig), who recruits him and Hansel to travel to Rome for a huge fashion show that they hope will resuscitate their respective careers. While in Rome, Derek reunites with his long lost son and inadvertently helps his rival Jacobim Mugatu (Will Ferrell) escape from prison when he tries to use reverse psychology on the guy. Jacobim then comes after Derek, creating a climactic showdown at the film's end. It's all rather ludicrous. And yet, the set designs and dialogue all feels half-baked.

The cameos come fast and furious as actors such as Kiefer Sutherland, Benedict Cumberbatch and Billy Zane all have bit roles. Look carefully and you’ll spot Skrillex on the wheels of steel in one scene. That’s not to mention appearances by Sting, Fred Armisen and Milla Jovovich. But since most of the jokes fall flat, it’s all for naught. 

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