Zoolander 2: comedy with a couture twist

Zoolander 2 or ‘Zoolander No.2’ as it has been advertised, was released in February this year by Paramount Pictures, and is an American comedy directed by (and starring) Ben Stiller (Meet the Fockers). It is a sequel to 2001’s Zoolander and stars Stiller, Owen Wilson, Will Ferrell, Penelope Cruz, Benedict Cumberbatch, Kristen Wiig and Fred Armisen among an array of celebrities.


After a 15 year long wait, this satirical tribute to the fashion world has been highly anticipated with hints having been dropped as early as May 2009, when Stiller revealed on Friday Night with Johnathan Ross that he was in fact looking at a number of scripts. With this in mind and rumours of a star-studded celebrity cast, I was eager to see the results.

On paper, this film was set to be a success with Derek Zoolander (Stiller), the foolish yet endearing ex-supermodel making a comeback with his philanthropic, sexually audacious companion, Hansel McDonald (Wilson). Yet, somehow rather than being a high-end gag, Stiller seems to have made a slightly tasteless knock-off.

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What’s it about?

With the assassination of some of the world’s most prominent superstars (Bieber, Madonna), it is the job of Fashion Interpol’s ex-swimsuit model, Valentina (Cruz), to locate the person responsible. Her only tenuous link being the pose on their faces before they die- recognised as being the formerly famous supermodel Zoolander’s trademark, ‘Blue Steel’. Valentina recognises this and brings both Derek and Hansel out of retirement to Rome, to penetrate a new age of high fashion and catch the culprit.

Meanwhile, as a subplot, we are introduced to the dysfunctional relationship between Derek and his son Derek Jr. or, ‘DJ’ (Cyprus Arnold) who is coincidentally residing in an orphanage in Rome. Later on, Jacobim Mugatu (Ferrell) escapes from his high-security fashion prison and seeks revenge on his original captors, Derek and Hansel, in a somewhat sardonic gathering of the fashion elite.

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Without revealing too much, the film itself is a trivial affair with a poor-pace, but some relevant topical aspects. Remember Derek’s miniature mobile? While in the first movie, we recognised the trend of miniscule technology, in the 2016 sequel, we see the satirical comedy surrounding the expansion of our technology. There’s also the significance of language change whereby Don Atari (Kyle Mooney) seems unexcited and insincere about every aspect of the film’s development, mimicking the use of ‘phat’ and ‘sick’ as complimentary.

However, among these witty topical remarks, lies a bigger issue: A lack of mockery for the fashion industry and the people within it. With the likes of Valentino, Tommy Hilfiger, Anna Wintour, Alexander Wang, Marc Jacobs and Kate Moss all making an appearance in the film’s finale it seems rather than Stiller satirising the frivolity of the fashion industry, he has invited them to join him in the joke. Maybe Valentino’s March runway show last year had something to do with it…

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Stiller appeared with his signature Zoolander Lego man hair, in a navy blue suit and trench coat and Wilson sported a pyjama-esque combo with white trainers and a duck-egg blue trench coat. While this clearly suggests a promotional rapport between Valentino and the film franchise, (there are the selfies to prove it!) I can’t help but feel that Zoolander has lost its original hook.

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One of the few saving graces that the movie has to offer is costume designer, Leesa Evans’ handy work. Both Judd Apatow’s (Knocked Up) costume designer and Amy Schumer’s (Trainwreck) stylist, Evans has learnt the knack behind comedy dress, stating that she was looking for, “50 percent couture fashion and 50 percent comedy…” This was particularly important for Derek’s character, in trying to reflect his warped perception of ‘iconic’. Evans researched extensively to perfect his look. Taking influence from, ‘70s runway and her own favourite designers, including Yves Saint Laurent.’ But by far, the most work was put into the costume of the gender fluid character, All (Cumberbatch).

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Even though there has been controversy surrounding the concept of using a cis actor to play a transgender role, we can’t deny the work and detail put into this costume, with both Evans and Cumberbatch researching men’s and women’s wear runway images from past collections.

There are two-sides to this film: there’s the comedic satirisation of models and their way of living, and then there’s a dusting of puerile humour that seems a little out of place. Stiller could have gone one of two ways with this movie but unfortunately, it seems he got a little lost in the middle.

What did you think?

Text: Millie Bull

Photographs: DailyDot, The Independent, MovieWeb


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