Apparently the Derek Zoolander Center for Kids Who Can’t Read Good And Want to Learn to Do Other Stuff Good Too could use a new class on how to make long-awaited sequels.
In the vein of Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, Zoolander 2 revives a beloved, quotable comedy that built a following in the years after its relatively quiet box office run. But unlike the return of Ron Burgundy, Derek Zoolander’s reappearance may be something Larry Zoolander wished would have remained buried in the mines of New Jersey.
The careers of supermodels Derek Zoolander and Hansel have suffered a downturn 15 years after their exploits first hit theaters. Someone is killing all of the world’s biggest pop stars, and the two supermodels team up with a member of the Interpol Fashion Division (Penelope Cruz) in Rome. While there, Derek and Hansel have to take on the resurgent threat of Mugatu (Will Ferrell) and Alexanya Atoz (Kristen Wiig), while Derek also has to contend with reuniting with his son, Derek Zoolander Jr. (Cyrus Arnold).
But are Derek and Hansel still so hot right now, or are their international exploits a disappointing follow-up to their 2001 debut?
“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,” EW’s Chris Nashawaty said in his C- review of the film. Nashawaty isn’t alone; the film’s penchant for throwing cameos instead of jokes at the viewer is a common theme amongst the film’s biggest criticisms.
For more of Nashawaty’s review, and a collection of other critics’ takes from around the country, scroll below.
Chris Nashawaty (Entertainment Weekly)
“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.”
Ty Burr (The Boston Globe)
“About 30 minutes into Zoolander 2, world-famous male models and cultural has-beens Derek Zoolander and Hansel check into a cutting-edge Rome hotel that looks like an industrial accident. It’s called the Palazzo D’Caca and is made, we’re told, from recycled human waste. This is not only one of the few successful jokes in Zoolander 2 but a decent description of the movie itself.”
Ann Hornaday (The Washington Post) ▼
“Sadly, the promised zings and arrows never fly in Zoolander 2, which with the exception of a mildly clever opening sequence, steadfastly avoids pointed satire in an attempt simply to cash in, tread water and peace out. Lazily written by Stiller and three collaborators (including Justin Theroux), this is the kind of lame, warmed-over movie that gives sequels a bad name. For Zoolander fans, however, it resembles a betrayal of public trust.”
Stephen Holden (The New York Times)
“In Derek’s imagination — and, I would like to think, in Mr. Stiller’s on a good day — he’s a devastatingly handsome specimen with his laser-blue eyes and prominent cheekbones. One reason the character registers so strongly is that Derek suggests Mr. Stiller’s personal obsession with his looks. He knows firsthand that men, deep down, are more vain than women, that in their fantasies most men see themselves as irresistible lady-killers.”
Mike Ryan (Uproxx)
“There are so many cameos in Zoolander No. 2 that I honestly lost count of them all. For awhile, I thought it might be fun to keep track of them as they ticked by. But, by mid-movie, I was beaten into submission. I now think there are cameos everywhere. As I’m typing this, I half expect the lead singer of fun. to walk in the front door and say hello. Then I will say, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s the lead singer of fun.’ – because these are all those types of cameos…”
Scott Tobias (NPR)
“Based on the evidence, Zoolander 2 seems like the result of a 15-year game of ‘exquisite corpse,’ the surrealist exercise where different writers add to a story independent of each other, strand by strand, without full knowledge of previous contributions. Though the first film wasn’t exactly a model of streamlined plotting, with its murky assassination scheme around Malaysian child labor laws, it looks like Spot Goes to the Farm compared to the sequel’s ornate mythology…”
Justin Chang (Variety)
“Really, the dumb thing about Zoolander 2 is that it isn’t nearly dumb enough: Rather than coasting along on a stream of blissful comic idiocy, it cobbles together a busy skein of twists and complications, as if the mental strain of following along might distract us from how crushingly unfunny it is.”
David Ehrlich (Slate) ▼
“There are any number of reasons why the vast majority of comedy sequels are borderline unwatchable, but there’s ultimately only one thing that the worst of them all share in common: They give the audience what they think they want, not what they don’t yet know they want. As Ricky Gervais once said before telling 47 consecutive jokes about the folly of religion: ‘The most important thing in comedy is surprise.'”
David Rooney (The Hollywood Reporter)
“But paradoxically, the sequel gets far less mileage than its predecessor out of the real-world absurdities of a target industry that takes itself so very seriously. When even icy style guru Anna Wintour is among the insiders clamoring to make a self-parodying appearance, the subversive edge gets blunted.”
David Edelstein (New York Magazine)
“The sequel, though, is the work of someone so insecure that he thinks bigger is better and loses all perspective. The more stars Stiller can entice to be in his movie, the more impressed he thinks we’ll be. The film opens with some of those A-listers being assassinated by a super-secret organization. In theory, seeing Justin Bieber riddled with bullets ought to be a killer setpiece, a slam dunk, but the staging is so heavy-handed, it smothers the laughs.”
Jesse Hassenger (The AV Club)
“It’s a shame the movie couldn’t get to Ferrell faster, or spend more time with newer players like Wiig or a very funny Kyle] Mooney. Even for an intentionally nonsensical comedy, a lot of time is wasted on non-actor celebrities woodenly reciting their bit-part lines, and on calling back jokes from the first movie (more “Relax”; more Wham!). Zoolander 2 is very much a reunion movie; Stiller is too crowd-pleasing to turn his long-awaited revival into its own weird, mangy satirical thing. (He’s not Adam McKay, in other words.)”
Overall Metacritic rating (1-100): 35
Length: 102 minutes
Starring Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Will Ferrell, Penélope Cruz, Kristen Wiig, Billy Zane
Directed by Ben Stiller
Distributor: Ben Stiller