Ben Stiller as Derek Zoolander in Zoolander.
Have you ever wondered what's behind those pretty faces you see on magazine covers, billboards, and fashion runways? Well, in Zoolander writer/director/star, Ben Stiller, attempts to tell us. And the answer is, not a whole hell of a lot, which is pretty much what we expected. That Stiller manages to eke a few laughs out of this obvious bit of satire is purely due the likeability and talent of the cast and a sometimes-witty script. Although, not even a slew of celebrity cameos can make this movie rise above mediocrity.
Stiller plays the title character, Derek Zoolander, the world's top male model with an IQ lower than most table lamps. A mental state that he shares with most of the other models in this movie. His roommates, all models, are killed in a gas station explosion when one of them lights a cigarette after first getting into a water/gasoline fight set to the tune of Wham's 'Wake Me Up Before you Go-go'. Derek is only saved because he went to look at a magazine with his picture on the cover.
The death of his friends coupled with Hansel (Owen Wilson), the next up and coming young model, beating him out for the Male Model of the Year award, plus a Time magazine article which refers to him as one of the stupidest people on the planet, makes Derek decide that it's time for him to retire and to return to his roots in the coalmines of New Jersey.
Derek returns to New York when fashion-designer Mugatu (played hilariously by Will Ferrell, who can make a movie funnier by just appearing in it), offers him a job as the lead in his next fashion show.
What Derek doesn't know (ok, one of the many things that Derek doesn't know) is that Mugatu really wants Derek to assassinate the Prime Minister of Malaysia because of the new child labor laws he's trying to pass, which would ruin the fashion industry by depriving them of their cheap labor. By sending Derek to a 'Day Spa', Mugatu is able to brainwash Derek into doing the killing.
Fortunately for Derek, Matilda, a reporter for Time Magazine (played by Ben's real-life wife Christine Taylor, most famous as playing Marcia in The Brady Bunch Movie), is investigating Mugatu and the shadowy fashion syndicate that seems to have been behind most of the world's assassinations.
Stiller and Wilson do interact well. The walk-off battle between their Zoolander and Hansel characters is one of the better moments in the movie. And the entire cast is likeable enough and seem to have had a good time while filming this movie.
Perhaps with enough alcohol or if you're gifted with an IQ equal to or lower than most of the characters in this movie, you might find it to be hilarious. Without either of those two things, at best you'll find it amusing.
Ben and Jerry Stiller in Zoolander.
Zoolander is a good attempt at a subject that needs a good skewering. Male models are to heterosexual men what hairdressers are to homosexual men. An embarrassing stereotype.
Derek Zoolander has a look he uses on special occasions called 'blue steel.' How stupid, I thought when I watched this movie. Then I saw an interview with a real life male model who admitted after much pressing from the interviewer that he had a look as well called 'distant horizon.' 'It's where I look as if I'm looking off into the distance.' He seriously stated. It's just modeling people. Get over yourself!
As Scott wrote, Zoolander has some good moments, like the 'Wake Me Up Before You Go Go' scene, and the modeling contest. However, I think the best scene is where Derek, back in New Jersey, is in a manly bar with his dad, Jon Voight. On the bar TV, a commercial comes on of a feminine looking Zoolander dressed as a merman. Derek stares lovingly at his own image.
This movie has a great subject matter, but it could have done a lot better job with it.
It is easy to make fun of pretty people, but this movie doesn't go beyond the stereotypes of arrogance and stupidity. Legally Blonde does a much better job of satirizing beautiful people.
Jerry Stiller as Maury Ballstein in Zoolander.
The one thing that struck me while watching this spoof on the vacuity of the fashion industry, as shown through the lives of vapid male models, is what a double standard Hollywood exhibits towards women. The fact that Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson are presented as super models is completely ridiculous. I get that this is intended as part of the joke but it fails miserably. The one thing they mention incessantly is how good looking they are supposed to be. Has either of these men looked in a mirror? This ruins the basic premise of the movie. Just think about it. You would never see a similar comedy with Kristen Wiig and Anna Faris spoofing female supermodels, because no one would ever accept them as such.
There are a few funny moments to be had in Zoolander, mostly courtesy of Derek's mangling of the English language. I chuckled in the scene at the funeral where he says to Matilda, “Oh, I thought you were going to tell me what a bad eugoogalizor I am.” When she says, “What?” He smugly replies, “A eugoogalizor, one who speaks at funerals. Or did you think I'd be too stupid to know what a eugoogoly was?” Later when she confesses to being bulimic the clueless model says, “You can read minds?”
I agree with Scott that Will Ferrell is funny as the flamboyantly evil fashion designer extraordinaire Mugatu, prancing around with his miniature dog accessory. And I concur that the entire cast seems to be having fun. But as Eric pointed out, they sure could have used a smarter script to rip the fashion industry a new one. This is most definitely a subject ripe for satirizing. Maybe they will get it right with the planned sequel due in 2014.
One thing's for sure, Zoolander crammed about as many famous faces as possible into one movie. In addition to the dozen or so stars listed in the above credits, the following celebrities all make cameo appearances playing themselves; Donald Trump, Christian Slater, Tom Ford, Cuba Gooding Jr., Steve Kmetko, Tommy Hilfiger, Natalie Portman, Fabio, Lenny Kravitz, Gwen Stefani, Heidi Klum, Paris Hilton, David Bowie, Tyson Beckford, Winona Ryder, Billy Zane, Fred Durst, Lance Bass, L'il Kim, Victoria Beckham, Sandra Bernhard, Stephen Dorff, Karl Lagerfeld and Garry Shandling. My apologies to anyone I may have missed.
Zoolander is most definitely not a model comedy!
Photos © Copyright Paramount Pictures (2001)