Dir. by Ben Stiller - 1 hr. 29 min.
by Clayton Hollifield
There are a lot of good jokes in "Zoolander." Yes, making fun of male models is kind of like shooting fish in a barrel full of fish with a bazooka, but some of the best moments come not from the subject matter, but from the characters themselves. Dumb characters will always be funny, and both Derek Zoolander and Hansel are a pair of the dumbest men ever committed to film.
Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller) is the shining light of the male modelling industry, but loses what would have been his fourth Model of the Year award to the new hotness, Hansel (Owen Wilson), in a spectacular gaffe. To boot, a cover article in Time Magazine, written by Matilda Jeffries (Christine Taylor), paints Zoolander as a complete idiot, and Zoolander's modelling bunk mates all die in a manner befitting male models. With Zoolander's career and life on the skids, stand-offish designer Mugatu (Will Ferrell) hires Zoolander to be the face of his new "Derelicte" campaign, which is a cover to use Zoolander to kill the Prime Minister of Malaysia. And that would be bad.
First off, "Zoolander" is a really solid concept. The story doesn't lag, and does hit all of those plot points you want to see in a riches-to-rags-to-riches story. Even better, it knocks every single one of those plot points out of the park. The gaffe that sends Zoolander's career into a tailspin was Kanye-worthy, before Kanye did it for real. The failed reconciliation with his family? Male model in a coal mine. The love story? The first time they make love is in the context of a drug-fueled orgy (and is still sweet, at the same time). Even Zoolander and Hansel's burying the hatchet is a riot; every court case in America should just begin with one person asking the other, "Why are you acting so wack to me?" And before that, the epic throwdown between the rivals is a walk-off, which is a sort of competitive modelling competition, with the best possible random judge.
And beyond the big stuff, there are dozens of small moments that are just as spectacular. From Zoolander not understanding the concept of a table-top model of a building, to the repeated arguments over people not getting the "Earth to..." joke concept, to breakdance fighting... "Zoolander" is so jammed full of ideas and jokes (without feeling like a series of comedy sketches that are loosely connected) that it's overflowing, and that means that sometimes you've got to pay attention or things are going to fly by unnoticed. That's a great feeling for a comedy, especially when it's clicking (like when Matilda tells Derek and Hansel that she's bulimic, and they both think that means that she can read minds).
"Zoolander" is a comedy for people who want to laugh and feel good and stuff. I hope the sequel, whenever that happens, is as good (although that's pretty unlikely). This is one of the films in director/star Ben Stiller's career that makes me keep showing up for his work. He does a lot of "product," films that just exist because they exist, but then there are those handful of films that Stiller has done that are so riotously funny and so insane that they justify everything else he does. "Zoolander" is up there with "There's Something About Mary" and "Tropic Thunder" (and there's probably a couple of other films that people like of his, but that would vary from person to person), that maybe give me false hope whenever I see his name in the credits, but even if his newest film isn't anything special (I saw "Along Came Polly" in the theatre, for example), it's no problem, because another viewing of "Zoolander" wipes it out of memory.
4 / 5 - Streaming