zoolander-2

When writing a sequel (as Hollywood so often chooses to do these days), the creators often encounter two options: Attempt to make a movie that stands on its own, or embrace what was good about the previous and follow a similar pattern, often making frequent nods to the original. It may have once been common to strive for the former, the recent trend of attempting to cash in on ’90s/early ’00s popular media for nostalgia factor has pushed us toward focusing on the latter. The best sequel will combine the two options, but a struggle still exists: How does it find a balance? This is a dilemma that Zoolander 2 deals with throughout the film.

While the primary audience is those who loved the first movie (released in 2001), the goal is always to reach the masses, specifically the younger Millennial crowd. The creators knew that many of those coveted youths would think of the source material as an ancient relic — they may not have even been born when it was in theaters [shudder].

So, in order to remedy this, there was quite a bit of recapping in the beginning of Zoolander 2, which also served to catch the rest of the audience up on what had happened over the last 15 years in Derek Zoolander’s world. And while the recap itself was both funny and informative, and followed a hilarious opening scene that I won’t spoil for you (though you’ve likely caught glimpses of it in the trailer), it began what soon became a sort of sensory overload.

Let me elaborate on this: What the first movie did with a bit of subtlety — random cameos, jokes about intelligence (specifically that of models) — Zoolander 2 did in excess. The celebrity appearances begin innocently enough, and continues to delight for quite some time. However, by the end of the film, it is a bit much — how can one be expected to react positively to the same set-up time and time again?

And the same goes for the “stupid” jokes. Perhaps it was a lack of chemistry between Ben Stiller and Penelope Cruz (as Melanie Valentina, an Interpol agent for the fashion industry), but their “she’s smart, he’s an idiot” banter was much less intriguing than that of Derek’s love interest in the original, Matilda Jeffries. (Of course that likely has everything to do with the fact that Matilda was played by Stiller’s real-life partner, Christine Taylor.)

However, these hiccups can be excused. No one thinks Zoolander 2 will be an intelligent film and, indeed, the movie never expects you take it seriously. It makes fun of itself and its predecessor at every turn. But its fatal flaw was that two-thirds of the way into the flick, characters and even plot elements are still being introduced. This should only be a slight spoiler, as he was in the trailer, but the appearance of Mugatu and his involvement in the plot comes into the picture long after the point in which things should have begun wrapping up.

Again, not to give away too much, but the initial conflict of the movie is all but abandoned upon Mugatu’s entrance. Though the two are revealed to be connected, the film seems to be trying to bite off more than it can chew, bringing in extra elements in order to keep the characters constantly moving. This issue can also be found within a number of fairly forced gags, especially where the cameo actors are concerned — in fact, it almost seems as though their lines are merely thrown in in order to meet the terms of their contracts.

A lot of late-in-life sequels flop — actually, most of them do. I make it a rule not to get excited about sequels, and those 15 years in the making? Forget it. But despite its many flaws, Zoolander 2 was smart enough to try and keep the “essence” (wink wink) of what made the first movie such a hit, and a lot of those jokes landed. Unfortunately, a needlessly complicated plot turned what started off as a light, silly nod to the original into repetitive and, frankly, fairly stupid chaos.