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Reviews » Theatrical Reviews » Zoolander
Zoolander
Paramount // PG-13 // September 28, 2001
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted September 29, 2001 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

While some seem to be criticizing a plot point of "Zoolander" and not the entire movie, the question behind any film like this is simply, "is it funny?" I've started to become rather tired of Ben Stiller's anixous "everyguy" character that he's done with both "There's Something About Mary" and "Meet The Parents" - "Zoolander" not only has him co-writing and directing the material, but really coming up with a terrific character who inhabits a little, well-realized universe of his own.

Stiller stars as famed male model Derek Zoolander, a character that he created for the VH1 Fashion Awards a few years ago, which he's now expanded to a full feature. As the movie opens, Derek expects to win another "Model of the Year" award, but things don't go exactly how he planned. Derek's got competition in Hansel (Owen Wilson), who walks away with the statue. Suddenly, Derek's famed "blue steel" gaze (which looks like a confused fish), which got him countless ads in the past, seems to have broken down.

Things continue to get worse for Derek: a reporter for Time (Christine Taylor, Stiller's wife) writes a nasty cover story on Derek - the cover has him wearing a shirt that says "I'm With Stupid" with the arrow pointing to himself. His three fellow model/roommates have a rather tragic accident, as well, and it's at that point where Derek decides to go into retirement, thinking that he can do more than just look "really, really, really beautiful". Things like, for example, opening the "Derek Zoolander Center For Kids Who Can't Read Good" (Derek is shown a model of the school, which he slams to the floor and replies, "This is a center for ants! How can we teach children to read if they can't even fit inside the building?") Although the trailers give this away, they don't give away the whole bit.

Derek returns home in one of the film's funniest sequences, where his father (Jon Voight) and silent brother (Vince Vaughn) are dissapointed in the path that he's taken. After a day where Derek can barely keep up with them in the coal mines, he leaves, saddened and seeking answers. Finding that he's scored a first job with incredibly popular fashion designer Mugatu (Will Ferrell) and his assistant Katinka (Milla Jovovich), Derek heads back to New York. They really don't care as much about having Derek for the show, though - they're looking to brainwash him to pull off another scheme. The obvious joke that models are stupid and easily open to suggestion is not particularly funny, but the film takes it in new and unexpected directions, including a cameo from David Duchovny ("X-Files") as a former hand model who tells Zoolander the secrets behind the industry's past.

There's also a few sequences that are among the funniest I've seen all year, including a "walk off" between the two competing models. They both go to a "super-secret" runway location and try to out-do one another. This sequence is also an example of the triumph of production design and cinematography that goes on throughout the movie; many of the film's sequences could have taken place in basic, generic sets. Instead, for example, the runway set where the two have their walk-off looks like the male model version of "Fight Club". Another sequence parodying "2001" is inspired hilarity, as well.

Performances are uniformly excellent. Stiller's timing is fantastic, and he's really created a very funny character, but I don't know if it would have worked as well in the hands of another actor. Wilson is quite funny, as well, and I even really liked Will Ferrell's performance. Taylor is given a rather thankless role, but pulls it off well. Also, the celebrity cameos are generally very funny, but they're just icing on the cake. "Zoolander" isn't always without some weaknesses and one element that some may be (and apparently are) offended by (yes, they probably could have used a phony country name), but the film energetically puts out the laughs and, more often than not, they work better than many (and maybe any) of the comedies I've seen this year. I'll probably even see it again.

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