After opening with the murder of Justin Bieber, Zoolander 2 flashes back and views the last fifteen years in the history of Derek, Hansel and the other characters that featured prominently in the original film. And unfortunately, things haven't necessarily gone very well for these guys. Only a few short days after it opened, The Derek Zoolander Center for Kids Who Can't Read Good and Who Wanna Learn to Do Other Stuff Good Too completely collapsed, killing Zoolander's wife, Matilda Jeffries (Christine Taylor) and permanently damaging Hansel's face. In the years after, Derek's life fell apart quicker than the poorly structured building- he lost his son, Derek Jr., to child services and quit the modeling industry. Hansel moved to a remote area of California to enjoy a series of orgies, and Derek became a recluse in the snowy depths of New Jersey.
If that plot synopsis didn't make sense, well, don't expect much more from the movie. I tried my best to put the bizarrely sprawling plot into a cohesive summary, but it just can't be done. Oh, and I didn't even get to the plot about Zoolander's reconciliation with his long-lost son (Cyrus Arnold), the ancient prophesy proposed by Sting, Kristen Wiig's modeling titan Alexanya Atoz, or the arrival of Zoolander's nemesis Mugatu (Will Ferrell). Zoolander 2 has so many moving parts, and it results in a plot that relies on celebrity cameos as its connective tissue. The weirder it got, the less convinced I was that director Ben Stiller and the four credited screenwriters knew what they were doing or even really believed in the story that they were telling.
It's stunning to me that a group of such talented people came together to create a movie that is so totally out of tune. And I'm not talking about the actors. Good actors have made bad movies before, it's nothing new there. And anyways, most of the principle players are relatively solid in the film. Ben Stiller's Zoolander is still a terrific screen creation, despite the fact that there's nearly nothing to work with this time around. Seeing the nitwit male model interact with Owen Wilson's Hansel again is a lot of fun, and they actually have some decent chemistry with Penelope Cruz, wasted in a supporting role. And we haven't even talked about Will Ferrell yet. If the rest of the movie wasn't such a disaster, Ferrell would emerge as the film's third act savior. Mugatu steals every moment on screen- he commands any attention and goodwill that the audience has left by the film's overblown and confusing conclusion.
Failing to generate a solid laugh for most of the runtime, Zoolander 2 is completely dead on arrival. Maybe it was just too late, or maybe something went really wrong during production, but whatever the case, this is a movie that simply doesn't work. It isn't as blatantly cliched as Ride Along 2 or as disgustingly gasp-inducing as Dirty Grandpa. And yet, purely by the virtue that it isn't funny, Zoolander 2 almost manages to be as bad as those two cinematic disasters. Films like this make my job relatively easy- there's not much to criticize at all. It's just a bad movie that doesn't work.
THE FINAL GRADE: D+ (4.5/10)