*. While I can appreciate that they do have talent, work hard at their craft, and are “really, really ridiculously good looking,” let’s face it: male models are kind of funny. Give “male model” a bit of a push and you don’t even need any jokes. Just have Derek Zoolander doing one of his trademark pouts (Blue Steel, Ferrari, or Le Tigre) at the camera and otherwise have him being dense. That’s all the joke you need. That’s the movie.
*. There is more to Zoolander. Lots more. But even though this movie is only 87 minutes and has an overload of plot (which might have been influenced by Bret Easton Ellis’s Glamorama, a novel I actually liked at the time) involving Derek being brainwashed by a cabal of evil fashion designers into killing the Malaysian prime minister, it’s all just running hysterically in place. Ben Stiller plays Zoolander, and he also co-wrote and directed, but despite the fact that he’s a very funny guy he’s upstaged here throughout by Owen Wilson as his fashion rival/bosom buddy Hansel and Will Ferrell as the mad designer Mugatu. Throw in more, way more, cameos than you can shake a press card at, and Ben/Derek actually disappears a bit from his own movie.
*. Which I think a good thing, on balance, since there’s no there there. That’s on purpose, of course, but it makes it hard to get that interested in whatever Derek’s up to. I’d also add that I found his voice to be really annoying. That might have been deliberate too, in the way that you wish models wouldn’t talk because whenever they do it’s like what legendary porn critic Al Goldstein called spiritual bad breath.
*. Twenty years later, I don’t think the funny stuff holds up that well. Which, given the talent assembled, is disappointing. It’s sketch comedy where only a few of the sketches work. The brainwashing stuff, which I guess was riffing on The Parallax View, was the best. Otherwise, there’s not much going on. Christine Taylor as the straight girl is reduced to just being a cutaway for far too many reaction shots. David Duchovny’s hand model wasn’t interesting. And to be honest, the clips included with the DVD from the VH1 Fashion Awards were just as funny as anything in the movie itself.
*. That final point leads into another thought I had watching the DVD. I was amazed while listening to the commentary track to find out how much of the material here was worked and reworked for years. They had all sorts of ideas, like a climax on Mount Rushmore and stuff about Derek’s father (Jon Voight) having been a model himself, that didn’t make it in. Given all they left out, you’d think that what was included would only be the best stuff, but with comedy I find that’s not always the case.
*. What’s left today are the memes. “Obey my dog!” “I feel like I’m taking crazy pills!” The Derek Zoolander Center for Kids Who Can’t Read Good and Who Wanna Learn to Do Other Stuff Good Too. Not much, but enough for some good box office and the catchiness of the name alone pretty much guaranteed a sequel.