Sunday, May 25, 2008
(Image from IMP Awards)
The trailer for 'Zoolander' had me in stitches around 8 years ago, so it's a little strange that I'm only getting around to watching it now. This outlandish comedy co-written and directed by Ben Stiller stars Stiller as the world's most successful male model, the vacuous and vapid Derek Zoolander. In the universe of the film male models are the biggest celebrities in the world, and the story begins with Zoolander's crown as number 1 being threatened by fresh young up and coming model Hansel (Owen Wilson). But that's only one of Derek's problems - it turns out that male models are being used by the evil fashion industry as assassins, and Zoolander has been brainwashed by the evil fashion designer Mugatu (Will Ferrell) and his assistant Katinka (Milla Jovovich) to kill the Prime Minister of Malaysia (who intends to raise the minimum wage in Malaysian sweatshops, which would be bad news for the industry). Teaming up with ace reporter Matilda Jeffries (Christine Taylor), Zoolander attempts to expose the bad guys and stop himself from carrying out his pre-programmed mission.
'Zoolander' is one of those comedies that is exactly what it appears to be, and in that sense it's sometimes predictable. The dumb models & the shallowness of celebrity culture and the fashion industry are lampooned at every conceivable opportunity, and it works beautifully but also feels a bit repetitive after a while. The story is - obviously - quite bizarre and unique; in fact, that could be said of almost everything in the film, even though it does follow certain tried and true storytelling beats. The thing is, there's something about the weird garishness that put me off. It's almost like they were trying a little too hard and went over the top with everything. Still, the film is very funny overall and there are some hilarious scenes and lines ("What is this? A school for ANTS?" gets me every time), and the jokes come nonstop since the film clocks in at a very packed 90 minutes.
The cast are uniformly great. Stiller is frighteningly spot on as the dumb, conceited, and slightly effeminate Zoolander, and his trademark 'looks' are a riot! The brilliant Owen Wilson is even better as the equally dumb but slightly more laid back, stoned Hansel, and the rivalry between the two models makes for some great scenes. Christine Taylor is the weak link as the bland reporter; she just isn't interesting, isn't remotely convincing as a top flight reporter (alright, I suppose this is part of the joke, but it didn't feel like it to me), and mainly serves as an instigator for Zoolander to demonstrate his stupidity. Will Ferrell is quite good as the sneering Mugatu, but it's Milla Jovovich as the crazed Katinka that really stands out from among the villains. There are also a couple of memorable bit parts, one from Jon Voight as Zoolander's father, and a brilliant little turn from David Duchovny as a hand model who keeps his precious hand encased in a protective cover, and who arranges shady late night meetings in cemeteries! There's also a host of celebrity cameos throughout the film.
As a comedy 'Zoolander' isn't a classic - I'm not even sure I'd call it great - but it is funny and very entertaining, and refreshingly devoid of some of the less appealing crudity that many of its contemporaries sport (Scary Movie, I'm looking at you). Garish, bizarre, and very watchable - and who knows, perhaps it has good replay value, since while writing this review I was amused by just thinking about some of those crazy scenes!