The first Zoolander worked as satire because it was about an industry desperately holding onto its relevance (with the existence of said relevance questionable in the first place) and the bobos who represented that last grasp. There is nothing inherently wrong with a sequel premiering a decade after the original, but it is always a challenge, especially so in the case of Zoolander 2. Its setting is so far removed from a natural one in that the setup necessary to get everyone where they need to be is convoluted and exhausting. The sweat comes from effort, not embarrassment.
The film comes to life when it focuses on the here and now. Hot designer Don Atari (Kyle Mooney) is where the real story is at. Fashion – or any industry in 2016 driven entirely by trends – keeps dying and rebirthing and eating itself. Mooney plays Atari as 100% ironically hipster and 100% earnestly enthusiastic, expressing his admiration for Derek and Hansel by simultaneously praising and dismissing them. It is infuriating and intoxicating. This paradoxical approach is scary, but it is how films as broad as the Zoolander’s need to distinguish themselves (see also, Fred Armisen’s face digitally transposed onto a pre-teen’s body).
Jeff Malone is a voracious entertainment consumer and entertainment creator. He currently resides in New York City, where he received his Master’s in Media Studies at The New School. In addition to his pieces on TMRzoo.com and StarPulse.com, you can check out his blog (jmunney.wordpress.com), where he provides regular coverage of Community and Saturday Night Live, as well as other television, film, music, and the rest of pop culture.