While some seem to be criticizing a plot point of "Zoolander" and not looking at 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. Some of the lines as written aren't even that funny, but Stiller and Wilson sell them so well that they're much funnier than the material would have otherwise been. The fact that the two characters don't realize how utterly stupid they are makes the situations even funnier.
Performances are uniformly excellent. Stiller's timing is fantastic, and he's really created a very funny character that he throws himself into completely. 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.
VIDEO: "Zoolander" is presented by Paramount in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. Aside from a few minor flaws here and there, the presentation is really, really ridiculously good looking. Barry Peterson's wonderfully glossy widescreen compositions are presented superbly by Paramount's effort, as the image remains sharp, detailed and film-like throughout, with nice depth to the image.
If it wasn't for a few little specks on the print used that pop up on occasion, the picture quality would be just about flawless. No instances of edge enhancement or pixelation were noticed. Colors were also beautifully offered, as the film's vivid color palette remained well-saturated and vibrant, with no smearing or other flaws. This is an excellent effort from Paramount that's very close to perfection.
SOUND: The film's Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is terrific, as well. While there's a fair amount of the film that's simply dialogue-driven, the film's terrific music and score by David Arnold are energetically offered by the surrounds, filling the room. There's also a nice amount of ambient sounds, such as chatter and background noise during the sequences where Zoolander is walking through a crowded club. The surrounds even throw in a few zippy sound effects. The music provides solid bass, while dialogue and sound effects remain clear and crisp. Much better than expected for a comedy soundtrack.
MENUS: Paramount has created some terrific animated menus, complete with funny film-themed images as backgrounds as well as some Zoolander discussion in the background about the menu (the special features menu dialogue is quite funny).
Commentary: This is a commentary from director/co-writer/actor Ben Stiller and co-writers Drake Sather and John Hamburg. As with Stiller's "Meet The Parents" commentary, he's fairly subdued, but along with the two writers, there are some funny moments throughout this track. Most of the commentary has the three discussing the obstacles that came up during shooting, discussing the locations and alterations to the material, as well as pointing out some of the cameos. There's some more pauses of silence later in the second half, but overall, I liked the commentary.
Deleted/Extended Scenes: 5 deleted and 5 extended sequences with commentary from Ben Stiller. There are some funny moments located within, but they would have likely slowed the pace.
Outtakes: 6 1/2 minutes worth of outtakes, most of which are amusing, but some of which aren't terribly funny.
VH1 Skits: Included are the 1996/1997 VH1 Fashion Awards "Zoolander" skits where Stiller introduced the character.
Promotional Spots: 6 "Zoolander Public Service Announcements"; 6 very funny gag interview clips and 3 "MTV Cribs" joke clips.
Also: Wiseguys "Start The Commotion" music video, alternate end title sequence, 3 small photo galleries.
Final Thoughts: While "Zoolander" might be a love-or-hate film for audiences, I thought it was the funniest film I saw in 2001. Seeing it again on DVD, I still laughed hard and laughed often. Paramount's Special Edition DVD provides excellent audio/video and some solid supplements. Highly Recommended.