Director: Ben Stiller
Stars: Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson
2 (out of 5) Globes
There are scores of jokes in “Zoolander 2” about its own irrelevance. It knows it’s ridiculous to make a very, very belated sequel to the original, which came out so long ago that the children who were entering first grade then are about to start paying back their college debt. There are no jokes, however, about it being a standard-issue lazy sequel — the kind that brings back the stuff that worked for a tired retread while adding little that’s new. It represents a strange trend in movies, most recently embodied by “Dirty Grandpa”: the terrible movie that embraces its own crapulence — and, occasionally, lets its creative paucity curdle into the genuinely weird.
Released in 2001, the first “Zoolander” was spotty but with fits of inspiration: the kind of comedy where a handful of strong bits helped one forget the surrounding mediocrity. The best found Ben Stiller’s knuckle-scraping model enjoying a Wham!-backed jaunt on the town, which inexplicably turned into a gasoline fight, with fiery results. That segment gets a callback in “Zoolander 2,” and naturally it’s nowhere near as funny. Ditto the return of Billy Zane (again, as himself, in his first prominent Hollywood film since 2005’s “BloodRayne”), the return of felled fashionista baddie Mugatu (Will Ferrell) and another leftfield music god cameo. The original boasted a walk-on from David Bowie; this one gets Sting, which charitably sums up the step-down in quality.
And yet what “Zoolander 2” lacks in creativity — with not a single stand-alone moment that will live on as a YouTube clip — it occasionally almost makes up for in super-weirdness. No, not the probably transphobic spectacle of Benedict Cumberbatch, with no eyebrows, as a genderless model flying winged over a runway. (OK, that does sound gonzo.) Here’s a movie that kicks off with a 9/11 joke, crafts a dense and bizarre mythology about models and ends with one character dating Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai. You can (and should) groan at the non-stop vomiting up of big name cameos fitted with easy jokes, but mild props must go to giving the final word to Neil deGrasse-Tyson.