Credit: Wilson Webb/Paramount Pictures

In addition to being very funny, the first Zoolander was a resilient little comedy. Ben Stiller’s low satire of high fashion landed in theaters less than three weeks after 9/11. And while the country wasn’t quite ready to laugh at the helium-light high jinks of a pair of clueless male models at the time, it ended up having the legs of a catwalk Amazon on DVD. A cult hit was born. Unfortunately, bad timing is a problem again with Zoolander No. 2. Not because of anything in the headlines, just because it’s been so long since we first met Stiller and Owen Wilson’s dim-and-dimmer narcissists Derek and Hansel that a sequel—or at least this sequel—feels sad and desperate, like a comic who doesn’t know when to get off stage. The flop sweat drips from the opening scene, where a labored Justin Bieber gag barely elicits a chuckle but provides the film with its lazy plot trigger: Who’s killing the world’s biggest pop stars? It’s all downhill from there as Stiller and co-writers Justin Theroux, John Hamburg, and Nicholas Stoller flail at the lowest-hanging pop culture fruit. For reasons too uninteresting to explain, Derek and Hansel team up in Rome with a member of Interpol’s fashion division (a game Penélope Cruz) to foil the evil Mugatu (Will Ferrell) and his leathery, Donatella Versace-esque partner in crime (Kristen Wiig) while reuniting with Derek’s estranged and (gasp!) chubby son. The thing is, if Stiller spent half as much time sharpening the film’s jokes as he did rifling through his Rolodex for celebrity cameos (Willie Nelson, Kiefer Sutherland, Susan Boyle?!), he might’ve coughed up a few laughs. As it is, though, Zoolander No. 2 is embarrassing, lazy, and aggressively unfunny. The only good news is that at the pace the franchise is moving, we won’t get Zoolander 3 until 2030. C–

Zoolander No. 2
  • Movie
  • 102 minutes