The past year has given new life to the idea of the long gestating sequel, with 'Creed,' 'Star Wars Episode VII,' & 'Mad Max: Fury Road' all proving to not only be the expected financial successes, but also creatively reinvigorating - bringing new life to familiar franchises. I don't want to say that 'Zoolander 2' negates all of that good will, but it is certainly a solid argument against going back to the well after more than a decade. The first 'Zoolander' actually had something interesting and political to say about the exploitation of child labor in foreign countries. This sequel feels like so much less of a mockery of the fashion world because it has been fully embraced by them and has cameos by just about every famous designer you can think of (and many more I probably didn't recognize). The only mean jokes about the fashion world here are that people in that world are weird, stupid, gullible & crazy which doesn't do much when everyone is in on the joke (and it's not exactly biting or original commentary). The sequel treads the same jokes as the original but lacks the additional substance that made it a cult classic.
The film starts with a recap of , there was a tragedy that leaves Zoolander's wife dead and eventually he loses the rights to his son as well. Hansel is in a similar role as he was exiled after the same accident left him 'hideously' disfigured. They are both brought out of hiding and then recruited by Interpol to help as the most famous people in the world are being murdered with one of Zoolander's signature looks on their face. There are religious contrivances, heist film elements, idiotic characters and more unnecessary cameos than almost any other film ever, and it just continues to snowball until a final 'battle' so predictable and drawn out that it's tough to not check your watch several times waiting for what is played as a big reveal.
What this experience felt the most like is when Adam Sandler movies come out now and it's tough to tell whether something like 'Happy Gilmore' or 'Billy Madison' were ever funny or if pure nostalgia makes those jokes last. 'Zoolander' is a stupid film, but it's fun and at the time it worked even as a long drawn out sketch with one note characters - 'Zoolander 2' really seems like it's not even trying to do something new except that it actually has the blessing of the fashion world which prevents it from doing anything vicious. Now it is just making fun of the characters we lived from the first film, which is completely unnecessary. There's no character arc for anyone since there is even an reset button at the end that brings things back to the beginning of the original.
There are two new things that come close to working: Kristen Wiig & Kyle Mooney. Both of them are clearly trying so hard and have characters that could be fun, but have no one to play off off. As odd as this may seem, the film seems almost overly scripted - it's not as casual as the first making the rigidity less of a farce and seem too real at times.
I wish this was great, but even on a purely absurd stupidity level this fails. It's not a surprise, but it is a big disappointment given that the first one does still hold up (even if I'm acknowledging it may be nostalgia since. Liked it when I was 13). 'Anchorman 2' was only slightly better, but I really think studios need to take a hard look at comedies before diving back in that well again, and this gets me very worried from 'Super Troopers 2.'