Ariana Grande in a ball gag, Neil deGrasse Tyson swearing, and more…
In the great and fabled history of the elite profession of male modeling there is one name that garners respect, admiration, and awe wherever it is spoken: Derek Zoolander. Another legendary name that exists in close connection with Derek’s is that of the golden-haired seraph Hansel. Sadly, it’s been fifteen years since these two fashion deities saved the life of the Malaysian Prime Minister with little more than the power of their really, really ridiculously good looks, and they have been living in self-imposed exile. This is where, after a bout of humorous exposition, the plot of Zoolander 2 opens.
Picking up with the tone and pace that was set by the ridiculous events of the first film and the intervening years in the lives of our characters, Zoolander 2 immediately recalls the particular comedic flavor of the original. Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, and Will Ferrell all return to reprise their roles as Derek Zoolander, Hansel, and Jacobim Mugatu, respectively. The character of Matilda Jeffries, played by Christine Taylor, that had rounded out the heroic trio of the first film, is noticeably gone from the sequel. Her absence becomes a vital part of the plot and her role is more or less replaced with the new character of Valentina Valencia (Penélope Cruz).
While it’s certainly possible to watch Zoolander 2 without having seen its predecessor, you certainly get a lot more out of the film if you’re one of the devoted members of the Cult of Blue Steel. The film is filled to the brim with references and throwbacks to the original movie. For example, as he is felled yet again by the sheer force of our models’ facial expressions, Mugatu faintly calls out “That Hansel, still so hot right now…”
An interesting difference between Zoolander 2 and its predecessor is the sheer number of celebrity cameos present in the sequel. The largest new appearances are by Penélope Cruz and Kristen Wiig, who have joined the main cast. The entire film is dotted with all manner of celebrities popping up here and there in smaller capacities. These range from a leather suit clad and ball gag equipped Ariana Grande initiating an orgy with Hansel, to a sassy Neil deGrasse Tyson spouting astrophysical facts toward our dubious heroes, and to an androgynous Benedict Cumberbatch controversially appearing as a supermodel simply named All.
The largest and possibly most memorable cameo appearance is made by Sting. His entry into the plot is preceded by a series of Police quotes pervading the dialogue, thus raising his presence to an almost prophetic status. Sadly, none of the celebrity cameos even come close to comparing with the thrill of David Bowie’s brief, yet utterly flawless part in the original film. But then again, we can’t expect anyone to ever compare to David. (Rest in peace.)
Perhaps the most interesting cameos are those made by real-world icons of the fashion industry. All together in one scene are the likes of Anna Wintour, Valentino, Tommy Hilfiger, Alexander Wang, and more. As amusing as it is to hear Anna Wintour threaten to tear Will Ferrell’s tongue out, the jokes made at her expense were met with more laughter from the audience than her actual lines. This was the case for the other industry individuals who appeared in the film as well. While not especially funny within and of themselves, the appearance of the real fashion world in such a ridiculous film that is entirely devoted to mocking fashion comes as a rare instance of the outwardly austere plane of haute couture being willing to have a laugh at itself.
When all is said and done, Zoolander 2 isn’t the kind of movie that will change your life or the world. Purely by virtue of being a sequel, it probably won’t attain the legendary status as a cult classic that the original enjoyed. But, Zoolander 2 does exactly what it set out to do, which is give the legions of fans a follow up to their favorite movie. Self-referential, hilarious, and surprisingly well updated to 2016, Zoolander 2 shouldn’t be missed by anyone who has seen and enjoyed the original.
Zoolander 2 is written and directed by Ben Stiller and stars Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Will Ferrell, Penélope Cruz, and Kristen Wiig. Zoolander 2 will open in theaters on February 12th.