I wanted to like Zoolander 2 so much. It has been 15 long years since the original made me laugh a lot and added another great character to star-director Ben Stiller’s canon of memorable comic creations — plus, the fact that he was directing gave me hope. Stiller’s Tropic Thunder was a gem, and he’s a very smart filmmaker. Not this time.

pete hammond review badgePerhaps it was too many cooks in the kitchen (the script is credited to Stiller and Justin Theroux — another smart guy — & John Hamburg and Nicholas Stoller), or what is an over-the-top concept to begin with just couldn’t withstand going this far over the top. Or, as I say in my video review above, 15 years is a long time to wait for a sequel, and maybe all that time just sucked whatever creative energy is left from the concept. Whatever the reasons, this is surprisingly one of the unfunniest comedies in a long time and a real miss for the terrific cast of talent that has been re-assembled including Stiller as male model Derek Zoolander, who was forced into years of seclusion after a disaster struck his Derek Zoolander Center for Kids Who Can’t Read Good and Wanna Learn to Do Other Stuff Good Too.

The picture picks up, yes, 15 years later, where he is living quietly alone as is modeling partner in crime, Hansel (Owen Wilson), who has been horribly disfigured and now wears a gold mask while engaging in free love Malibu-style. Cut to Rome, where both are invited (by Billy Zane, of course) to re-enter the world of fashion but find it radically different than what they knew before. After a few bad jokes, they are brought in to help Valentina Valencia (the gorgeous Penelope Cruz), an agent for Interpol’s Global Fashion Division who is trying to solve the mystery of why so many of the world’s top music stars are being knocked off. They include Madonna, Bruce Springsteen, Demi Lovato and Justin Bieber, who is murdered at the beginning of the film — but not before he sends one last Instagram selfie in the Zoolander-style Blue Steel pose that is common with the demise of all the other stars.

It all goes downhill from there as the pair run back into nemesis Mugatu (Will Ferrell) and even Derek Jr. (Cyrus Arnold), who turns out to have been abandoned and living in an orphanage in, of all places, Rome! He’s kind of fat, so there are a few jokes about that. Kristen Wiig also turns up this time as a fashion maven, and there are lots of celebrity cameos in addition to Bieber as well as icons of the fashion world including Vera Wang and Anna Wintour.

Unfortunately, none of it works except a Benedict Cumberbatch extended cameo as All, a supermodel of questionable gender. Cumberbatch plays off his character’s name with such deadpan brilliance you kind of wish this movie was all about All. It’s not. It’s really just a mess that feels like everyone onscreen is having a better time than anyone who pays to see this thing. Producers are Stiller, Stuart Cornfeld, Scott Rudin, Clayton Townsend and Jeff Mann. Paramount releases it today.

I have a feeling this might be the end of the line for Derek Zoolander. The press notes state, “Only Derek and Hansel have to power to SAVE FASHION.” Unfortunately, they don’t have the power to SAVE THIS MOVIE.

Do you plan to see Zoolander 2? Let us know what you think.