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Zoolander No. 2: The Magnum Edition
While things ended on a high note for supermodel Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller) in his first movie, right after it wrapped his Center for Kids Who Can't Read Good and Who Wanna Learn to Do Other Stuff Good Too collapsed, killing a few people including his wife. Fellow model Hansel (Owen Wilson) was also (sort of) horribly disfigured as the building collapsed on him and forced to wear a mask. The cause was determined to be structural problems resulting from the building having been made with the exact same material (mainly toothpicks and rubber cement) as the scale model had been- the one Derek had mistook for the actual building when he first saw it and wondered how they were going to teach kids stuff when they couldn't even fit inside it. Derek and his son Derek Jr. tried to live wifeless and motherless, but Jr. was soon taken away by Child Services after Derek Sr. proved to be an unfit parent and nearly injured the both of them trying to remember how to make spaghetti soft. After all of this, he hid himself away from the world and lived alone in "Extreme Northern New Jersey".
Years later, a few pop stars (including Justin Bieber, who appears early as himself) are mysteriously killed, and all take "selfies" right before death with the same expressions on their faces, resembling Zoolander's famous "blue steel" pose. Valentina Valencia (Penelope Cruz) at "Fashion INTERPOL" figures that Derek Zoolander is the only person in the world who can make sense out of this and orders him tracked down. Billy Zane (himself) soon pays him a visit, delivering a package that changes things for Derek. It's a holographic box bearing a message from Alexanya Atoz (Kristen Wiig) who asks him to make a return to modeling for her fashion empire in Rome. Derek is hesitant, but agrees once Zane tells him that this can prove to Child Services that he can still be a productive member of society and allow him to reunite with his son. Once in Rome, Derek is soon reunited with Hansel after he gets a similar message, and Valencia soon enlists both of them to find out the cause of the celebrity deaths. Rather conveniently, it turns out that Derek Jr. is also in Rome at an orphanage- while Derek Sr. is at first disappointed that he isn't as "really, really good looking" as he is, he soon learns to love him and also has to protect him from the same forces responsible for the earlier celebrity deaths, led by Will Ferrell returning as the evil Mugatu.
Critics weren't very kind to this sequel upon its theatrical release- while I usually have mixed feelings about sequels (some are quite welcome when the previous movie left you wanting more and the sequel delivers that, while others end up spoiling the original by having its characters do things you don't feel they were meant to do, or just try to duplicate the original with little success) I will always give them a chance if I liked the original. The first Zoolander was a movie that I was unsure about going in but felt that Ben Stiller as star and director pulled it off rather well- his obviously not-so-bright character could easily have come across as annoying if done differently, but the way he played it with a straight face made it work. Surprisingly, watching this sequel back-to-back with the original I found it almost as entertaining and didn't see very much justification for the large amount of negativity towards it. Essentially it plays as a comedic international spy thriller as well as a redemption story for the title character. Of course if you didn't find the first movie funny you likely won't laugh at this one either, but Stiller's deadpan dumbness just worked for me as well as Owen Wilson returning as his almost-as-dumb sidekick (the two remark "I miss not knowing things with you" as they reconcile). Penelope Cruz usually annoys me in most of the movies I've seen her in, but even she is watchable here- her character is infinitely smarter than Derek and Hansel but she never flat-out addresses that and just attempts to work within the confines of their low intelligence levels. Newcomer Cyrus Arnold almost steals the movie as Derek Jr., being smarter than his dad and calling out his past mistakes before he's able to redeem himself. As in the first movie, there's more cameo appearances than space to list them all.
Paramount has released Zoolander 2 on Blu-Ray and DVD in an unrated cut different than the PG-13 rated theatrical version, which I didn't get to see so I don't know what was changed. I've heard the running time of this version might be about three minutes longer, and there's no material that would push it to a "worse" MPAA rating.
Shot on digital this time around (the first was filmed in Super 35) but still presented in a 2.35 ratio, this is a rather good-looking movie. Director Stiller with director of photography Dan Mindel (who has shot a number of "big" movies including Star Wars: The Force Awakens) give it the atmosphere of a big action film but still making the comedic elements fit in. Colors are intentionally bright and all details are sharp. The Blu-Ray disc shows some slight banding in a few moments but no compression artifacts. A standard DVD is also included which looks adequate in comparison.
The Blu-Ray disc gets a DTS:X mix in their Master Audio format, which played on my slightly lesser sound system as 7.1. (The disc's menu tells you to set your player to output sound as Bitstream and turn off secondary audio in order for DTS:X-equipped receivers to properly decode the track, yet the disc told my Oppo player when set to "automatic" to still output as PCM, even though there are no menu sound effects or uses of secondary audio on the disc.) The sound mix is on par with that of big action movies in the same way the picture is, and adds to the rather ridiculous nature of the story and characters that are presented mostly with a straight face. The surrounds come alive quite often with music, ambient sounds and gunshots, and even dialogue is occasionally panned to the rear. There is also a 2-channel DTS "headphone mix" (as luck would have it I've misplaced my headphones, but having wanted to try out a headphone mix for a while and this being the first disc I've gotten ahold of with one, I will update this review with my impressions of that when I can) as well as an audio description track, and dubs in French, Spanish and Portuguese. The DVD drops the Portuguese track, and its main English 5.1 track in Dolby Digital sounds a bit weaker than the Blu-Ray's 7.1 DTS but still has plenty of rear-channel effects.
Both discs include subtitles in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese, and the Blu-Ray adds additional hearing-impaired subtitles with standard closed captions on the DVD.
The Blu-ray has three featurettes running about nine minutes each. The first, "The Zoolander Legacy" looks back for a bit at the first movie and what went into making the sequel, "Go Big or Go Rome" shows how much fun the cast and crew had shooting in Italy (and Ben Stiller gets to show his knowledge of prior Italian cinema), and "The Man Who Created Zoolander" focuses on the late Drake Sather, who first created the character for the VH-1 fashion awards in the 1990s. If you have BD-Live enabled, a few streamed Paramount trailers will play at the start-up. The DVD doesn't include any of the extras but does open with trailers, all in 5.1 audio, for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, Daddy's Home, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot and Grease Live. (These were the same previews I got via streaming on the Blu-Ray in lower quality, we'll see if Paramount actually keeps them updated in the future.)
This was another movie that I wanted to see despite the general bad reviews, though I didn't expect a lot from it. I was pleasantly surprised at how entertaining it was, of course your mileage may vary. While I would have preferred if the theatrical cut had been included in at least some form, I still enjoyed the version on these discs. Ben Stiller again shows his versatile comic range as he's played "normal" characters in movies such as Meet the Parents to ridiculous ones like Derek Zoolander.
Jesse Skeen is a life-long obsessive media collector (with an unhealthy preoccupation with obsolete and failed formats) and former theater film projectionist. He enjoys watching movies and strives for presenting them perfectly, but lacks the talent to make his own.