“Zoolander No. 2”: Even its parade of celebrity cameos — Willie Nelson, Susan Sarandon, Anna Wintour, Tommy Hilfiger, et al. — can’t save this movie. 2 stars out of 4.
“Zoolander No. 2” employed the talents of four credited screenwriters, but unfortunately not one of them seemed to notice that what they were working on wasn’t actually a screenplay. It is, instead, an excuse to string together an endless and often random supply of celebrity cameos (Willie Nelson, why are you in this movie?) and to reunite a pair of beloved but played-out characters from the original 2001 “Zoolander.” The result: a mostly agreeable but empty-headed mess. It’s sort of the movie equivalent of Derek Zoolander himself.
It’s not that it isn’t a kick to see Derek (Ben Stiller, who also directed this time around) and his fellow supermodel Hansel (Owen Wilson) again; I could happily kill time watching the two of them striking poses, sucking in their cheeks (the better to accentuate razor-sharp cheekbones — and, as a bonus, to look silly), getting words wrong and saying, upon their reunion, lines like, “I missed not knowing things with you.”
But the movie keeps getting lost in its mysterious and frequently impenetrable forest of plot: something about Will Ferrell’s cotton-candy-coiffed villain Mugatu destroying the world, and the male-model twosome needing to save it with the help of an ex-swimsuit model turned special agent with Interpol’s Global Fashion Division (an amused, and amusing, Penélope Cruz). Along the way, Derek reunites with his son Derek Jr. (Cyrus Arnold), and fashion maven Alexanya Atoz (Kristen Wiig) frequently slinks into scenes to say something unintelligible. (You sense that Wiig’s performance — she’s styled to suggest a deranged version of Donatella Versace — is an enormous in-joke. The role was probably funnier to perform than to watch.)
Movie Review ★★
‘Zoolander No. 2,’ with Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Will Ferrell, Penélope Cruz, Kristen Wiig. Directed by Stiller, from a screenplay by Justin Theroux, Stiller, John Hamburg and Nicholas Stoller. 95 minutes. Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content, a scene of exaggerated violence and brief strong language. Several theaters.
Meanwhile, those celebrity cameos flit by — some of them misguided (Benedict Cumberbatch in a weirdly tone-deaf bit about a transgender model), some head-scratchy (Susan Sarandon, didn’t you have something better to do?), some fashion-y (Anna Wintour, Valentino, Marc Jacobs, Alexander Wang and Tommy Hilfiger, though their scene is too obviously spliced together), some delightful (Sting, who nearly saves the movie with one late line). Though it’s impossible for me to truly dislike a film containing the line “oh, shut up, Valentino!,” “Zoolander No. 2” ultimately feels like fast fashion: cute, disposable, quickly forgettable.
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