Zoolander (2001)

*. 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.

26 thoughts on “Zoolander (2001)

    1. Alex Good Post author

      I haven’t seen Dodgeball! Stiller is a genuinely talented and funny guy, and this movie isn’t bad, but I don’t care for the Derek Zoolander character. I think it’s mostly the voice.

  1. fragglerocking

    I cannot cope with Stiller, he’s about as funny as a ton of bricks on the big toe. Will Ferrell not much better though I’m going to give him a chance in Spirited if my Internet ever gets sorted out. Anyway I’d rather dig my eyes out with a spoon than sit through a Stiller movie so big Nope.

      1. Alex Good Post author

        You mean Iron Maiden the torture instrument, or Iron Maiden the metal band? I went to see the latter perform at Ontario Place in 1983. Fact! Fun concert.

    1. Alex Good Post author

      I liked Ellis’s early stuff, but I think Glamorama was the last of the good ones. I heard White was insufferable, and from reading interviews it seems pretty clear that he’s just become a bore.

      1. film-authority.com

        Lunar Park and Imperial Bedrooms were both fine. He writes a lot about the collapse of his mystique, and I think he’s got some new fiction arriving soon. White is deliberately problematic, and it’s a bit of a cringe seeing his arguements bout Ye and Trump back on 2019 evidence. That’s why a book of articles dates fast….

      2. Alex Good Post author

        Ugh. I thought those two were awful.

        Off topic, but I just noticed how hairy the guy’s hand in the top pic, the one over Zoolander’s shoulder. Was he a werewolf? Now I can’t remember.

  2. Bookstooge

    I don’t like Ben Stiller. I managed to enjoy Mystery Men despite him, but just about everything else with him has been a dnf part way through.

    Was there a sequel? I don’t remember ever hearing about one….

  3. film-authority.com

    FFS, Ok, I’ll bite then. Zoolander was good at the time, which wasn’t exactly a great time for comedy. Some of the gags work better than others these days, but it’s still better than most, and certainly better than the sequel…

    1. Alex Good Post author

      Who are you biting? Me? Ouch!

      Maybe just because it’s more recent. but I actually laughed a bit more at Zoolander 2. Though it was stupidly overblown.

      One of the good things about Stiller is that he lets people around him shine. Wilson and Ferrell in these movies. Downey in Tropic Thunder. Everybody else in Something About Mary.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.