Directed by Ben Stiller. Produced by Stuart Cornfeld, Scott Rudin, Ben Stiller, and Clayton Townsend. Written by John Hamburg, Ben Stiller, Nick Stoller, and Justin Theroux. Release date: February 12, 2016.
There are very, very few comedy sequels that are worthwhile. I figure the reasoning behind this is rather simple: the filmmakers put all of their effort and best jokes into making the original, so by the time the sequel comes around, they're out of places to go and things to say. Theoretically, that should mean that Zoolander 2, which is coming out 15 years after the original, shouldn't suffer from this problem. It has four writers, only two of whom worked on the original, and it's been 15 years. If the creative juices were dried up after the first film, they've had plenty of time to be replenished.
Unfortunately, Zoolander 2 is more nostalgic cash-grab than laugh-out-loud comedy. This is a lazy movie that has multiple handfuls of celebrity cameos in place of jokes, an exotic locale (Rome) so that its stars could get a paid vacation, and a D-level plot that feels more like a 12-year-old's fanfiction than something that Hollywood screenwriters could come up with. I would have had to be on laughing gas to do more than an occasional chuckle at Zoolander 2, and even that might be a generous prediction.
Appropriately set a decade and a half after Zoolander concluded, we learn through news clips that the reading center Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller, also director and co-writer) built collapsed after a couple of days, killing his wife (Christine Taylor) and critically disfiguring his new friend, Hansel (Owen Wilson). He also lost custody of his son and retreated into the wilderness to be a recluse. However, after receiving a message delivered by Billy Zane, which invited him to a fashion show, he decides to get back in the game to regain his former fame and convince social services that he deserves to be reunited with his son (Cyrus Arnold).
(Sidebar for a second. Zoolander 2 reminded me that it's been a while since we've seen Billy Zane on theatrical screens. It turns out that it's been half a decade. The Roommate was the last time! And nobody remembers that movie. Personally, I'm not quite sure why The Scorpion King 3: Battle for Redemption didn't help him rise up like a bad idea and out of the obscurity of direct-to-video films, but that sadly didn't happen. Oh, well. Could Zoolander 2 mark the last time Zane books a movie that gets released in theaters?)
It turns out that Zoolander and Hansel are about to be entangled in a plot that will remind you of a terrible spy movie. Several pop stars have been murdered - the first scene in Zoolander 2 is an exceptionally violent death of Justin Bieber - and it's up to Zoolander, Hansel, and INTERPOL Agent Valentina (Penelope Cruz) to figure out who's behind their deaths. Why? They all made one of Zoolander's famous faces before dying, that's why.