This is a terrible, terrible film. It isn't funny, it will in no way entertain you or otherwise enrich your life. Seriously, burning a ten pound note would be a better use of your money than seeing this film.
Zoolander 2 may well be one of the worst “big” films to be made in the past however long. Say what you like about the Transformers series, but it is at least enjoyable on some level. This, though? It’s a film that delves into awkward and absurdist humour, but seems to forget the importance of the ‘humour’ part. What you end up with is an hour and forty minutes that seems to stretch on without end, as you alternate between being offended by the sheer level of un-funniness; being really quite upset for the film’s cast while, like a group of slowly but certainly drowning rats, they fluster and gasp their way through the script; and seriously contemplating the events in your life that led you to watching this God-awful film.
Set fifteen(ish) years after the first film, the plot of Zoolander 2 is that someone has been killing famous people for… some reason, and Zoolander (Ben Stiller) and Hansel (Owen Wilson) have to stop them, while also helping Zoolander reconnect with his estranged son. A large part of the plot features a re-write of the creation myth – apparently Adam and Eve were joined in the Garden of Eden by “Steve”, a male model. But kinda weren’t. But kinda were. The whole thing is entirely unclear. The film literally writes itself as it progresses. Not in a cool meta-fiction way, but in a shambling, uncoordinated mess, lurching from plot-line to plot-line like a drunk guy trying to use a urinal. It isn’t fun to watch, and someone ends up with piss on their feet.
Stiller and Wilson are actually okay, despite the cinematic horror that unfolds around them – they recapture their old roles well (better than Will Ferrell, when he eventually turns up, who just screams out his lines without any real attempt at, you know, acting), and the few moments where it’s just the two of them are almost good. Beyond that, the film’s acting is poor – though it’s hard to tell whether that’s because the actors were all having strokes on set, or because the script is really just that bad. Kristen Wiig, who plays Alexanya Atoz, one of the main antagonists, is almost undecipherable, and completely unrecognisable (which may be good for her, I honestly had no idea who she was in the film until the credits rolled). A joke is made about this in the film, but as with all the others it feels forced, and you only really recognise that it was supposed to be a joke about five minutes after the fact.
Alongside the principal cast, the film features a veritable smorgasbord of celebrity cameos, ranging from needlessly offensive (Benedict Cumberbatch as the transsexual ‘All’) to out-of-touch (Susan Boyle), to bewildering and pointless (Lewis Hamilton gets squished into frame, says nothing, and is never explicitly referenced or mentioned). It’s these that really ruin the film. Not only does each one drag you out of the film (bearing in mind this a film that can hardly hold its own story together, let alone your attention), they’re all so badly done. It’s painfully obvious that the cameos and the rest of the cast aren’t in the same room, and amateurish editing highlights rather than obscures this fact. When the cameos are present, Zoolander 2 transcends a bad Hollywood film, becoming akin to something made by a fourteen year-old on iMovie, that barely deserves being called a film in the first place.
There are exactly three moments in the film which are actually funny, and one of them is just the presence of John Malkovich, so it doesn’t really count anyway. The rest of it is terrible. Fucking. Terrible. And not even in that kind of “it’s fun to watch a bad film kinda way” like The Room, or The Pyramid. No, this is just not good. This is just funny scenes from the first film unnecessarily shoe-horned into something that doesn’t quite pass as a plot, rendering them horrifically unfunny.
What makes the whole thing even worse, though, is that underneath the layers of awful (and there are many, many layers – like, at least four or five deeply entrenched layers of bad film), the occasional glimpse of what the film could have been is still visible. Everything that Stiller and Co. do best – using absurd, offensive humour to make quite sharp pieces of social commentary and satire – is there in this film, but isn’t capitalised on. Zoolander 2 could have been just as good as the first, but it threw it all away for jokes about miscarriage (seriously), fat-shaming (again, seriously), and gratuitous, masturbatory celebrity-worship.
Zoolander 2 (2016), directed by Ben Stiller, is distributed in the UK by Paramount Pictures. Certificate 12A.