Zoolander

Zoolander
Directed by: Ben Stiller
Written by: Drake Sather, Ben Stiller, John Hamburg
Starring: Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Will Ferrell, Milla Jovovich, Christine Taylor

There has been a lot of talk about whether or not this movie could be accepted by the general public considering the crazy terrorist attacks that took place in the U.S. just a few weeks ago. Is America ready to laugh again? Or do they still want to mope around for few more weeks and continue to have all traces of the World Trade Center erased from their minds?

Well, they played it safe by digitally removing the World Trade Center from the New York skyline in the movie, lest we be reminded of the threat of terrorism. To be honest, I don’t think anyone could possibly be offended by this movie, even if they tried. Well, okay, maybe if they tried. But there isn’t even any of that toilet shock humour that is so popular nowadays. Really, this movie is as harmless as Fabio. Unfortunately, it’s not quite as funny as Fabio, and when real life models are more funny than the satirical ones, you know you have a problem.

Zoolander is a feature length film based on a series of shorts that Ben Stiller did for the VH1 awards a couple of years ago. He plays Derek Zoolander, 3-time Male Model Of The Year, a man who has patented many world famous “looks”, but who isn’t too bright. Zoolander’s world is turned upside down when his newfound arch enemy Hansel (Owen Wilson) wins the cherished Male Model Of The Year award. Of course, Zoolander decides that he needs to do some soul searching.

Somehow, a conspiracy to assassinate the Malaysian prime minister works into the plot, the joke being that he wants to outlaw child labour, which would have catastrophic effects for the fashion industry. This aspect of the story takes a joke that isn’t all that funny to begin with, and makes it very unfunny.

I thought this movie was going to be hilarious. It’s not very often that I actually laugh out loud at a trailer, but Zoolander’s trailer had me “ROTFL” (rolling on the floor laughing, for you non-net savvy losers). Unfortunately, this is one of those cases where the trailer spoils the movie for you, because the funniest parts were contained therein. I was trying my hardest to laugh at the other stuff, believe me, but nothing could top that joke about the model school, and all the other jokes were few and far between.

This isn’t to say that the movie didn’t still have a few other funny moments. There are some hilarious spoof scenes, including a 2001: A Space Odyssey gag, and also a great Fight Club/Matrix spoof where Zoolander and Hansel face off on a no holds barred backroom runway. Which reminds me, the movie also features some great cameos including David Bowie, Christian Slater, Natalie Portman, Fabio and David Duchovny, among others.

Unfortunately, a few brief cameos cannot make this movie hilarious. The only thing that really saves Zoolander from being thrown into the pile with all those lame Saturday Night Live movies is the performance of Owen Wilson and Ben Stiller. These guys can take something completely lame, and make it funny through facial expressions alone. They aren’t afraid to make fools of themselves, and that’s an important thing when it comes to the world of Zoolander. Oh, and Jerry Stiller, Ben Stiller’s father was great too. You probably know him best as George Costanza’s father from the TV show Seinfeld, and he pretty much uses the same role to portray Zoolander’s agent, Maury Ballstein.

Overall though, I thought the jokes were just too sparse. I was hoping for a lot more.I’m sure Zoolander worked well as a short, but it is yet another example of an idea being stretched beyond its limits. It did have potential, after all, the fashion and modelling industries are definitely deserving of their fair share of mockery. Perhaps Zoolander could have worked as a feature length film if more time had been spent on the script. It really needed to be developed further. There are scenes and characters that were just basically filler, such as Zoolander’s trip back home to see his father and brothers who work as miners. What was with that anyways? Not only was that scene not humourous, but it was actually kind of depressing.

I also think the characters needed to be fleshed out a bit more.This may sound like a stupid thing to say about such an obviously ridiculous movie, but there were a lot of characters that were just sort of… there. Ben Stiller didn’t even seem to have the main character’s style of speech down quite right. And what about Mugatu, the evil fashion mogul played by Will Ferrell? He comes off as a Dr. Evil wanna-be, but without any personality or quirky habits. Will Ferrell is normally a funny guy, but even he couldn’t do much with the character, aside from look goofy in his weird outfits.

Visually, the movie was outlandish and funny, but they relied too much on these visual gags. After a few minutes of seeing characters in completely bizarre clothes, the effect wears off, and there is nothing left to carry the film. The trippy brainwashing scene was pretty amusing though.

I think Zoolander just happens to be another one of those self-indulgent films that was more fun to make than it is for us to watch.At a time when North Americans are trying desperately hard to laugh, Zoolander doesn’t make it much easier for them. If you thought the trailer or commercials were funny, you’ll probably laugh at some parts of this movie. If you thought the trailer was stupid, well… then you will probably get more laughs from that movie Serendipity. — Sean

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