#5: Zoolander (2001)

Director: Ben Stiller
1h29min; PG-13

⭐ ⭐

To some, Zoolander is considered a cult classic. Not to me. While it’s interesting to go back over a decade ago and watch the kind of comedy that was being made then, before I feel Ben Stiller became a more serious actor (He is certainly a better actor in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, perhaps even Tropic Thunder), what is more interesting is simply taking in how much  has changed in the last 14 years. It’s a bit heart-tugging. Stars in their prime who we haven’t seen anything from in a while dot this film, as well as people who hadn’t yet made it to the big time. And there are some who are no longer with us, and watching them play a part in a film like this is exciting, awe-inspiring (sometimes) and sad.

The film itself is pretty stupid most of the time. I’m kind of curious as to how it was funded. The plot involves a shadowy cabal trying to off the prime minister of Malaysia with the help of bitchy fashion designer Jacobim Mugatu (Will Ferrell). Mugatu is looking for someone to brainwash and take the inevitable fall for the hit and that person appears to be Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller). Zoolander is a moron- “you know, to be moronical… An imbecile…. Like the dumbest motherfucker that ever lived…”- and a titan in the modeling industry. His main competition is Hansel (Owen Wilson).

 The film seemed to get ripped a bit for its crappy depiction of child labor but I believe that this film as a whole is more of an offense.

The film is deliberately dumb and while it surely captures the fucking bitchy absurdity of the fashion industry there is a difference between being dumb-funny and just plain dumb and Zoolander is the latter. Stiller is fine as Zoolander and I do have to commend him for never seeming to break character. Wilson is also passable as Hansel, in that it feels like Wilson is just playing himself like in the majority of his films. Ferrell is annoying, like putting a monumental amount of effort into taking a shit the size of an almond, although I like Mugatu’s curly white hair. The film also captures what is perhaps Milla Jovavich’s best performance as Mugatu’s (bisexual?) Russian henchman.

The one part of the film that I thought was hilarious is the brainwashing scene. Zoolander trips balls into the black hole of hell’s ass while being soothed by Ferrell’s Mugatu. Also of note is the threesome at Hansel’s apartment which becomes a six(Maybe?)some. Other than that I turned the film off in the last ten minutes and I will never watch it again unless I have been drugged or held at gunpoint. Maybe not even then. The film seemed to get ripped a bit for its crappy depiction of child labor but I believe that this film as a whole is more of an offense than anything critics could come up with that involves sweatshops or misogyny, of which there is a bit.

There is a difference between being dumb-funny and just plain dumb and Zoolander is the latter.

What is fascinating is seeing how certain people were in 2001. Donald Trump is in two shots in the film and I wonder how much of a hand he had in its production. There is a shot of a young Natalie Portman, far away from Black Swan or Closer Natalie Portman. Alexander Skarsgard plays a model far less beasty than the Tarzan we now know. Justin Theroux was unbelievably unrecognizable as Mugatu’s dreadlocked DJ. Wynona Ryder, Andy Dick, Tom Ford, James Marsden (as John Wilkes Booth haha). What is perhaps the most saddening is seeing the late David Bowie, introduced as David Bowie, judge a modeling runway walk-off between Zoolander and Hansel. When he appeared on-screen I audibly gasped. Even more heartbreaking is hearing Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” during the walk-off. Jesus God, times have changed.

Considering how much I did not enjoy this film I can’t believe that I want to check out the sequel, released quite recently. The reason I want to try it out is to see if that film is any better than this and considering how dumb this movie is I am also curious as to how the second film was made. There must still be an audience for this kind of thing and that’s fine. It’s just not for me. Luckily the second film does have Cumberbatch.




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