Neil Young’s Film Lounge – Zoolander

Published on: March 23rd, 2004

ZOOLANDER

5/10

USA 2001
director : Ben Stiller
script : Stiller, Drake Sather, John Hamburg (story : Sather, Stiller)
producers include : Stiller, Scott Rudin
cinematography : Barry Peterson
editing : Greg Hayden
music : David Arnold
lead actors : Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Christine Taylor, Will Ferrell
also : Milla Jovovich, Jerry Stiller, Jon Voight, David Duchovny
89 minutes

Enjoyably daft fashion-world satire hits the ground running and gets unexpected mileage out of its one joke male super-models are super-stupid. Its basically Austin Powers meets Pret-a-Porter, with a what-the-hell dash of The Manchurian Candidate. Airhead clothes-horse Derek Zoolander (Stiller) realises he’s losing his number one status to his most hated rival, uber-hippy Hansel (Wilson). Shadowy fashion-insiders want the Malaysian Prime Minister dead before he can outlaw their child-labour sweatshops, so our dim-bulb hero is brainwashed and programmed to assassinate the PM during New York Fashion Week. Investigate reporter Matilda (Taylor) uncovers the dastardly plot, and persuades Hansel to forget old rivalries and save his catwalk colleague

The whole supermodels-as-terrorists angle is straight from Bret Easton Elliss Glamorama, and like that novel Zoolander is stuffed with wall-to-wall star names: Victoria Beckham, Tom Ford, Tommy Hilfiger and countless others (including the inevitable S.Bernhard, D.Trump, D.Bowie and S.Dorff) flash past as themselves. And with Duchovny, Voight and an alarmingly chubby Vince Vaughn appearing in scruffy cameo roles, there’s always somebody popping up, just as there’s always some bit of absurd business going on to keep us interested. Preventing us, perhaps, from dwelling on the fact that too many of the jokes are either too obvious (the fashion scene is hardly a tough target) or not funny enough: as in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Will Ferrell (as Gaultieresque designer Mugatu) does his level best to keep the laugh-ratio down. How does this comedy dead-zone get work?

Luckily, Wilson is on top form as the shaggy-haired, doe-eyed flower-child Hansel, right from his early appearance wearing angel wings in a gloriously deadpan tribute to Barbarellas John Phillip Law. The comic highlight is when he shows Derek and Matilda around his party zone loft – this is Wilson (and Zoolander) at their freewheeling best. Even so, you can’t help feeling that neither character nor movie are quite as hilarious as they could and should have been.

28th November, 2001
(seen Nov-28-01, UCI MetroCentre, Gateshead)

by Neil Young