A Model Idiot
Trust me, that when I say "Zoolander" is completely stupid, it is not a criticism, in fact "Zoolander" is indeed quite funny as it goes about spoofing the world of male modelling. But whilst the movie provides a certain amount of well worked humour from the likes of Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson, it never really becomes more than an amusing parody of the fashion industry with a rather strange excuse for a plot revolving around an assassination attempt.
Having won the coveted 'Male Model of the Year" award for three years in a row, dim-witted Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller - Meet the Parents) is a God in the world of modelling. That is until Hansel (Owen Wilson - Armageddon); a new younger, cooler model steals his crown by winning this year's award. Depressed and humiliated by his sudden fall from being number one, Derek decides to retire from the spotlight and seek a new beginning with his father and brothers working the mines. That is until he is offered a modelling assignment with the one fashion designer who constantly shunned him, Mugatu (Will Ferrell - Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery). But unbeknown to Derek, Mugatu is behind a sinister plot to assassinate the Prime Minister of Malaysia and plans to brainwash him into becoming a trained assassin.
With the main thrux of "Zoolander" being the mickey taking of the fashion industry the movie actually delivers plenty of laughs. From the constantly pouting, dim-witted Derek Zoolander to the outrageously OTT fashion designer Mugatu, no one within the industry seems to escape some form of lampooning. But it is in some of the set pieces that the movie really delivers, such as what can only be compared to as a dance off between Derek and Hansel, as they try to out do each other on a catwalk whilst being judged by none other than David Bowie. It seems that the writers were willing to spread the mickey taking to more than just the fashion industry as during this catwalk strut off, Hansel asks his assistant to cut him, in a pure spoofing of a scene from "Rocky".
Whilst some of these gags work brilliantly, there seems to be a few gags which fail to deliver and it is sadly these moments of failed humour which seem to be repeated though out the movie. I suppose once upon a time making a joke about the trend for mobile phones being made smaller and smaller would have caused a few laughs, but in the case of "Zoolander" the mobile phone gag just does not work.
Whilst the satirical look at the world of male modelling is generally good the additional plot which revolves around the assassination of the Malaysian Prime Minister, causes "Zoolander" to falter, well not so much falter but nose dive into oblivion. Whilst some movie reviewers pick up on this theme as being politically incorrect and an insult to Malaysia, I pick up on the fact that it is just too ridiculous even for a comedy. But it is not just the ridiculous nature of this plot which fails but the over the top performance of Will Ferrell as fashion designer Mugatu, which instead of being funny is down right annoying. I doubt whether a calmed down Will Ferrell would have made much of a difference to this plot line as the whole thing is too stupid.
It also paves the way for some rather strange scenes which are not central to the telling of the story but have been put in just for the sake of getting a cheap laugh. The one which stands out in my mind is where Derek and Hansel end up presumably bedding a young journalist after presumably taking drugs and with the aid of a midget, a heavily tattooed man and what looks like an old Thai bloke. I say presumably as "Zoolander" never shows anything graphical like taking drugs but it does not take much to work out what the scene is saying.
Whilst "Zoolander" seems to be a bit hit or miss when it comes to the storyline and humour, the casting and characters is near on perfect, except for the poor show from Will Ferrell. With Ben Stiller taking the lead and Owen Wilson partnering up in a supporting function these two work brilliantly together, working off each other to great effect whilst still managing to deliver individually. Stiller's caricature of a male model borders on the idiotic, with his constant pouting, and over stylized look but it works and it is for the majority of the film really really funny. The same can be said of Owen's performance as he makes the character of Hansel one of the most laid back, chilled out models going.
In a nice touch of nepotism, Stiller's own father, comedy actor Jerry Stiller, gets a somewhat prominent role as Derek's fast talking agent, Maury Ballstein. Whilst the youngsters supply the majority of the humour, Stiller senior shows that he has still got it in the comedy stakes as he teaches the youngsters a thing or two about comic timing, especially as he complains about prostate problems whilst on the phone and standing over the toilet, okay so you have to watch it to appreciate it. Add to this Christine Taylor as a journalist who befriends Derek and minor roles for David Duchovny, Jon Voight as well as Milla Jovovich and you nearly have a great set of cast and characters.
Whilst I am a fan of Stiller as a comedian, I feel that maybe he exerted a bit too much control over "Zoolander" as not only was he the star but he was also the writer, director and producer, I wonder if he found time to sleep whilst doing all those jobs. This is in my opinion why the film fails to really deliver as Stiller was spreading himself too thinly and in the end, the film does have a slight feeling of being rushed.
What this all boils down to is that whilst I may not rate "Zoolander" as a great comedy, it is one which can hold its own against all the other current films within this genre and provide you with enough laughs to make it a worth while watch. It has plenty of laughs and the spoofing of the fashion industry provides for some very memorable and funny scenes. The issues with the plot do detract from making the film a complete joy to watch and the over performing from Will Ferrell is a definite negative for me, although some people will probably enjoy it.