Zoolander2coverGrade: C
Entire family: No
2016, 102 min., Color
Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content, a scene of exaggerated violence, and brief strong language
Aspect ratio: 2.40:1
Featured audio: DTS: X, DTS-HD MA 7.1
Bonus features: C+
Includes: Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD
Amazon link

Fifteen years after Zoolander (2001) registered somewhere around the B- range on the cult comedy scale, along comes the sequel that fans never thought would happen. Yet Zoolander No. 2 feels like an uninspired knockoff rushed into production to take advantage of the first film’s popularity.

Oh, there are a few wickedly funny gags—as when Justin Bieber is hunted down and machine-gunned to death by an assassin who, like a true dis-Belieber, keeps firing much longer than necessary. And Bieber, in cameo, provides the punch line: using his dying moment to Instagram a photo of himself. But for the most part the jokes fall flat, and even the comedy of character seems cramped by the script’s far-fetched plot and pedestrian dialogue.

The original Zoolander probably worked as well as it did because the outrageous characters were balanced by a satiric plot that at least made some sense. Egotistical male model Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller) lost his top male model crown to the upstart Hansel (Owen Wilson), and lost his marbles in the process. Enter the evil fashion designer Mugatu (Will Ferrell), who, teamed with modeling agent Maury Ballstein (Jerry Stiller), act on behalf of the entire fashion industry, which will collapse if they can no longer obtain cheap child labor in Malaysia. And that’s just what could happen after a new progressive Prime Minister wins election in that Asian country. They decide to program a brainless assassin, and who’s more vacuous, and, since his rapid decline, more ripe for manipulation than Derek Zoolander?

Zoolander No. 2 begins with both former top male models in seclusion following the collapse of a building that Derek built with “popsicle sticks and glue,” during which Derek’s beloved wife Matilda (Christine Taylor) was killed and Hansel, who had just been hanging out, was horribly, facially disfigured. Many years afterwards both receive a visit from Billy Zane, who Zoolander2screenpersuades them to attend a House of Atoz fashion show. For Derek, the added incentive is to resume living a productive life so he can regain custody of Derek Jr., whom he lost because of parental neglect (he couldn’t make spaghetti sauce—seriously). But someone is also systematically killing the world’s pop stars, and an apparent Interpol agent (Penélope Cruz as Valentina) asks for their help. Meanwhile, Mugatu has been in a special prison, and somehow Derek waltzes in and Mugatu waltzes out. And new models like the androgynous All (Benedict Cumberbatch) and the hipster Don Atari (Kyle Moody) have taken over the runway.

Stiller, who directed and produced this sequel, has a lot of friends, and almost all of them make an appearance. Yet even the cameos, which are normally a source of delight, seem to be more of a “huh” moment, again because the whole sequel seems to fall flat. Appearances by Katie Couric, Jim Lehrer, Christiane Amanpour, Jane Pauley, Justin Theroux, Mila Jovovich, Matt Lauer, Kristen Wiig, Susan Boyle, Andy Dick, Olivia Munn, Naomi Campbell, Ariana Grande, Willie Nelson, Katy Perry, Sting, M.C. Hammer, John Malkovich, Tommy Hilfiger, Kate Moss, and a host of fashion icons don’t seem to add any effervescence. And there’s no hilariously stupid-but-energetic scene to match the one from the first film, in which Derek’s equally dim-witted male model friends have a gasoline war at a gas station, frolicking as if for a photographer, only to explode when someone decides to light a match.

Is Zoolander No. 2 bad enough to take the second half of its title as an ironic appraisal? No, because there are still a few scenes that will make you smile, and if you’re a fan of the first film there’s still Wilson and Stiller in character that are fun to watch. But laugh-out-loud moments are harder to come by in the sequel, and for that you can thank the writers: Stiller, Theroux, Nicholas Stoller, and John Hamburg. For whatever reason, their “wouldn’t it be funny if” gauges were malfunctioning.

Language: one muttered f-bomb and milder swear words (bitch, bastard, damn, hell, whore) used throughout
Sex: Talk of orgies and masturbation, a woman puts a man’s hands on her breasts
Violence: Bieber’s gun-down, several stabbings
Adult situations: In addition to what’s been mentioned, just a weird everybody’s pregnant in Hansel’s family scene
Takeaway: You’d think after 15 years they could come up with something a little funnier. As is, Zoolander No. 2 is really really really ridiculously average at best.