Directed by Ben Stiller
Written by Drake Sather, Ben Stiller & John Hamburg
Stars: Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Christine Taylor, Will Ferrell
Released: 28 September 2001
Running time: 1h 30 min
No spoilers to be found here!
I didn’t know much about Zoolander before, except that it was some wacky comedy from the early 2000s starring Ben Stiller. After watching it, I realized I was very much right, however, the movie takes that as a compliment. Zoolander is a very fun and strange movie, despite suffering from a somewhat unfocused narrative, still a solid comedy from Ben Stiller.
Derek Zoolander (played by Ben Stiller) is a world-renowned model, having won numerous awards and is loved by the public. One day however, he loses the award for best model to his rival Hansel (played by Owen Wilson) and starts to doubt his choice of career. As Derek suffers from an identity-crisis, a sinister corporation, led by the enigmatic Mugato (played by Will Ferrell), wants to use the model for their own benefit.
My summary of the plot may sound very cryptic, but I really don’t want to get into the narrative to much if you haven’t seen Zoolander before. In short, this is a great screenplay. Zoolander is a straight-up comedy, full with great characters, a creative plot as well as consistent and well-executed jokes. The humor in this movie goes towards being stupid, containing some really dumb characters. This could easily become ridiculous and simply not funny, but Zoolander manages to walk the fine line almost perfectly. All characters and situations are stupid, but it is often funny-stupid. This means that even though you are faced with some really dumb scenarios, you are entertained by the cheer lunacy and stupidity that occurs. This works because of two things, the script and the actors. There is some really stupid things in this movie, but the main actors are good at playing stupid and seems to pull of most of the jokes in the film. I think that when you commit to being stupid and go out all the way, it will usually be funny. If you can quote a lot of the lines from a movie, you probably have a good combination between the mentioned script and actors. Well, Zoolander certainly is quotable, sooo hot right now! There are a lot of stand-out moments in the movie, but some of these lines are so strangely written, but acted out in full confidence that I can’t do much than to sit back and laugh at the absurdity of it all. Zoolander has some great lines to quote and certainly has a solid screenplay.
The actual plot of Zoolander itself is very creative and fun to follow, something I did not expect at first. It could be argued that it serves no other purpose than to create funny scenarios, but I do think that the plot is focused enough to be interesting in-of-itself. That is unusual for a comedy, a testimony to the creative and imaginary plot for Zoolander.
As mentioned, Zoolander focuses on some very dumb comedy. Fittingly enough, two of the main characters are dumb as can be. Derek Zoolander is probably the stupidest person in the entire movie, not understanding anything properly, except how to style yourself of course. It could be considered a bit cheap to play stupid for laughs, but with dumb script like Zoolander, it often works really well. Derek isn’t very smart, and therefore some really fun scenarios play out. His rival Hansel works in exactly the same way, he is dumb as nails. But Owen Wilson manages to inflict some of his suaveness into the character, creating a similar, but still distinctly different character from Derek Zoolander. Since they share a lot of scenes together, they have great chemistry and deliver some of the funniest jokes in the movie. You may have seen dumb characters before on screen, but something about Derek and Hansel make them stand out. They aren’t just dumb, they are also very successful models. That fame gives them some sort of self-entitlement and makes them think of themselves as better people. This of course is extremely funny as they in reality are really, really stupid. Simply put, two great characters who fit in their movie perfectly.
And then we have Matilda, played by Christine Taylor. She plays the normal person, amongst the idiocy of the other people. She is a reporter who helps Derek out a lot throughout the film and does have surprisingly much screen time. Christine plays the role very well, and as she is always the straight person, the contrast to her dumb counter-parts can often be quite humerus. But Matilda isn’t a very original character, you have seen her many times. Since she is only a side-character who plays of against our main character, it still works very well.
A quick shout-out to Will Ferrell as Mugato as well, the antagonist of the movie. He hasn’t a big part of the film, but is very memorable in the scenes he is in. As he is in the fashion-industry, he’s also stupid, but just a bit smarter than Derek and Hansel. But Mugato is also very neurotic and child-like, making for some of the best comedic lines in the entire movie. A well-executed antagonist that fits very well with the overall movie.
I have nothing to comment on on the actual film making of the movie, as nothing really stood out to me that much. One technique that did make me raise an eyebrow is the celebrity cameos. On some occasions in the movie, a famous person steps in and does something. It could be viewed as a gimmick, and that is because it very much is one. However, since they don’t take up much of the movie and are actually pretty enjoyable in the short time they are in the film, I think it is harmless.
Zoolander is a full on comedy, a type of film that relies on being funny. As stated, the movie is pretty funny throughout, with a few standout moments. However, since Zoolander really doesn’t have much to offer except for its comedy, it’s a bit to much hit or miss. For every three-four funny jokes, there is one that misses. It’s not a disaster, but I do think as for a comedy, it should have me laughing a bit more often. And when I am actually laughing, I am never really laughing that hard. There are a few moments where I did laugh a bit, but mostly I did some smirks and grins, which is okay but not nearly as satisfying. Compared to a recent comedy I reviewed, Team America, I was in stitches every other minute, a very good thing to say about a comedy. This sadly isn’t the case with Zoolander, which makes me view it as the lesser comedy.
However, my major gripe with the movie is that the story can be somewhat unfocused at times. As mentioned, the plot is creative and complex, but I do think that the story goes for some unnecessary turns that don’t really do much other than to pad out the runtime. Sure, the movie is short and maybe needed them in order to make it longer, but I don’t think these detours added much. It would have been a much better idea to use this time to develop the characters a bit more, as it could be put in great use.
Zoolander is a fun movie. As it is a comedy, and therefore relies the most on its funny stuff, it is often very well executed. The comedy is dumb and silly, but it works very well for our already dumb characters and the strange world that they inhabit. The story is surprisingly creative and complex, making for quite an interesting time with quite a few chuckles. But as it’s only a comedy, it simply isn’t funny enough to be considered a great comedy, as to many jokes miss. The movie never reaches the comedic heights that other comedies seems to do. Adding to all this, Zoolander’s plot takes a few detours that drag out it’s story whilst adding nothing to it. It is simply time that could have been better spent. While I adore Zoolander for staying with it’s stupid style and going full out with it, as well as trying to pull of a real creative narrative, it still stumbles in some areas. These issue never really become a big problem and when I look back on it, Zoolander is a movie that I will not forget in quite some time. It may not be the best comedy I have ever watched, but it has certainly earned its place amongst my collection of movies I consider well made. Which is a very big collection, but whatever.
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