The first time I sat down and witnessed Ben Stiller deliver ‘Blue Steel’ was many, many years ago. I was drawn in by the ‘dumb’ humour, the overly dramatised stereotypes, the easily quotable lines and tongue in cheek outlook on the fashion industry. The plot was over exaggerated but that just made the viewing even more brilliant, defining itself as a cult film. This being said I was itching to see the much-anticipated sequel.
With the release date fast approaching I booked my tickets for Zoolander 2 at 8 pm, since it was opening night of such a publicised film I wanted to be safe, not sorry. Arriving at the cinema late, I was expecting to have to shimmy past people down the isles to our seats but to my surprise, the seats were barely filled, possibly only thirty people including myself. At this point, I questioned my optimism of the sequel but quickly threw away any concerns so I could enjoy the film I’d been so looking forward to seeing.
The self-indulgent attitude of Derek Zoolander brought tears to eyes in the first film, a man who solely relies on being really, really good-looking. By bringing this idea into 2016 it takes away the humour of Derek’s vanity, our current society prides itself in selfies and the rise of the Kardashian/Jenner tribe who have made their careers on their self-obsession. This joke is something that no longer shocks the current generation but they relate, which is worrying in itself. This is a comedy film but the character’s traits are now something which we see everyday life, the jokes while more crafted to our society still seem slightly stale and outdated.
One of biggest differences between Zoolander and the sequel is the increased $50 million budget, the film was set in Italy, contained lavish special effects and special guest appearances. This is what I found slightly problematic, the majority of the film was spent trying to pick out celebrities that seem to have just been thrown in anywhere, my personal favourite was Joe Jonas sitting on a chair. Superb. While Zoolander is a franchise that penetrates itself into celebrity culture, the constant stream of cameos did distract from the regurgitated plot.
Similarly, it has to be asked if the intense involvement of the fashion industry and celebrities alike in the sequel takes away what was so appealing about the original. Zoolander‘s charm was satirising an entire industry that is foreign to most, the audience could sit back and laugh at the ‘idiotic’ male models and the ridiculous designers. However the sequel seems to relish in the endorsement of celebrities and the fashion industry, with numerous A-listers such as Anna Wintor, Justin Bieber and Kate Moss, appearing to join the cast in making fun of their lifestyles. Originally we were blessed with the late David Bowie judging a walk-off in an unprecedented cameo, Zoolander 2 seems to have drowned itself infamous faces eager to be a part of the joke. By having these people laugh at themselves, does it take away the satirisation that originally made the film a success, are the audience suddenly on the back foot? There is also a series of laughs directed at the fashion designers who feature in the movie with selected one-liners aimed at their brands. Sitting in the cinema it was clear these witty jokes went over the heads of audience members who had no knowledge of fashion, once again putting an audience at a disadvantage while the fashion industry’s influence rises.
Asides from current societal issues and endorsements the film did contain a few laughs, some being once again focuses on Derek’s stupidity or Hansel’s bizarre orgy. Stiller and Wilson fell back into their roles effortlessly while the newcomer to the film series Penelope Cruz shined through in her role as ex-swimsuit model turned ‘fashion police’. Cruz threw herself into the role, being cast as a sex symbol while also being able to have a comical timing that matched perfectly with Stiller’s.
Overall, Zoolander 2 while being a light hearted, easy to watch film, it strived to live up to its predecessor but fell short. The rehashed plot failed to grab an audience who are more invested in playing a game of ‘Where’s the Celebrity’ and the involvement of the fashion industry made it become a ‘fashion film’ as opposed it the original film that satirises fashion. Times have changed since the first film and we now live in a culture that prides itself of self-obsession, so is Zoolander 2 a byproduct of a vain society or a comical representation of what the world has become?