When the sequel to Ben Stiller's 2001 comedy Zoolander was announced, everyone was pretty much unanimously game: not too much time has gone by so the original cast looks basically the same and there is plenty about current day pop culture to send up.
Speaking of which, Zoolander No. 2 opens with a chase through the streets of Rome straight out of a spy movie as some bikers hunt down and kill Justin Bieber who sends out his last Instagram selfie as he dies. This scene sets the tone for the rest of the film which is not only more action oriented but also packed to the brim with cameo appearances. Penelope Cruz is a new addition to the cast, she plays a member the Fashion Police who is investigating the recent run of celebrity assassinations. Zoolander's (Ben Stiller) "Center For Kids Who Can't Read Good And Who Wanna Learn To Do Other Stuff Good Too", it turns out, barely made it a day before crumbling to the ground, killing his wife and disfiguring (that's an exaggeration) Hansel (Owen Wilson) in the process. The latter moved to the desert where he lived with the members of an orgy which amusingly includes Kiefer Sutherland while Zoolander lost custody of his son and started living as "a hermit crab" in the mountains.
Both male models are reunited for a show organised by fashion icon Alexanya Atoz (an unrecognisable and underused Kristen Wiig) but this kickstarts a much bigger plot involving Zoolander's estranged son and locked-up fashion criminal Mugatu (Will Ferrell). Like Anchorman 2, Zoolander No. 2 definitely has all the ingredients to be a worthy sequel and it is: it's funny, appropriately random, extremely silly and very much in the same spirit as the original. Stiller, Wilson and Ferrell are as good as ever and some of the new cameos (Sting, Susan Boyle) are pretty fun. Some of the best moments include an epic Mugatu prison escape, an ad where Zoolander plays a half-cow half-man creature, a catwalk gone wrong and Zoolander's failed attempts at bonding with his son.
Unfortunately, the film is much too bloated for its own good. Where the first movie was small yet refreshingly original, this one is huge in scale and it throws everything at you when only a third of it genuinely sticks. Every scene looks crazy-expensive and often the main joke of a big setup isn't actually that funny so this makes the film a little unbalanced. Thinking about it, the best parts are essentially variations on jokes found in the original. Then there's the cavalcade of cameos, 90% of which are either completely pointless (Susan Sarandon, John Malkovitch), bizarre and off-putting (Fred Armisen, Benedict Cumberbatch) or simply awful (Neil De Grasse Tyson, Katy Perry). When David Bowie popped-up in the first Zoolander, it was a treat! Here, the film tries too hard to try and find relevant celebrities to throw our way.
Zoolander No. 2 is, indeed, flawed and uneven: new ideas and characters are left unexplored, it relies far too much on modern pop culture references and the jokes are hit-and-miss. That said, it remains an entertaining sequel with a lot going for it and fans of the original shouldn't be too disappointed with it.
That Hansel is still so hot right now.