A review of  Zoolander” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: ***

Rating: PG-13 for sexual innuendo, adult concepts

Run Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

 

Ben Stiller is a comic genius. He writes, directs, and is blessed with flawless subtlety and timing.  Based on Stiller’s short story “Derek Zoolander: Male Model”, this is a hilarious and quirky spoof skewering the superficial world of male modeling.

 Derek Zoolander is god’s gift to the modeling world.  Chiseled, coiffed, and vacuous, he’s known the world over for his penetrating trademark gazes – Blue Steel, Ferrari and Litigra. Perched at the highest precipice of modeling fame, Zoolander is prepped to unleash his most piercing look yet – Magnum.  But breathing down his neck in the dog-eat-dog fashion world is superstar upstart Hansel (Owen Wilson), an adventurous free spirit taking the runways by storm.  When Hansel beats out Zoolander for VH1’s Male Model of the Year, Derek begins to question the meaning-of-it-all.  A tragic accident shortly thereafter, involving Zoolander’s dim-witted model roommates in a freak gasoline fight, is a professional turning point.  “Who Am I?” questions Derek, as he heads for  the coal mines of Southern New Jersey to reacquaint himself with his roots. 

Not so fast buddy.  Power-designer Jacobim Magatu (Will Ferrell) has plans for Zoolander. The prime minister of Malaysia has declared a ban on child labor workers, which will seriously affect Seventh Avenue’s ability to churn out pricey knockoffs at bargain-basement labor costs.  Magatu is looking for the dimmest bulb alive to participate in a madcap scheme to kill the Prime Minister, thus restoring order to his burgeoning fashion empire. And the dimmest of them all is Zoolander.  Magatu lures Zoolander to NYC by guaranteeing him a spectacular comeback as the face of his latest line, Derelicte (featuring dilapidated, street-people clothing and accessories). Fashion and murder – a fine duet, indeed.

Only Ben Stiller could work this effortless combo of Isaac Mizrahi’s “Unzipped” and Mike Meyers’ “Austin Powers”. Zany graphics, glitzy set design, and outrageous scenarios make for big laughs punctuated by hyper-dramatic thrills. Stiller classics include a Zoolander-Hansel “walk-off” and the aforementioned (and painfully hilarious) gasoline fight.  Plot is chock full of wickedly amusing inside jokes - thumbnail sized cell phones, Orange Mocha Frappuccinos, gargantuan Times Square billboards – all infused with a droll inanity.

It’s who you know, and Stiller is chummy with an eye-popping line-up of acting and modeling talent.  Glitzy celeb-fest includes John Voight (as the disapproving coal-mining dad), David Duchovny, Natalie Portman, David Bowie, Winona Ryder, and Lenny Kravitz, to name a few. It’s a family affair as well - Stiller’s real-life wife Christine Taylor (“The Brady Bunch Movie”) plays Matilda Jeffries, a Time Magazine reporter hot on the heels of the Malaysian scam; dad Jerry Stiller is Maury Ballstein, the brains behind the hottest agency in New York – Balls Models. Stiller and Wilson hit all the right notes in the chemistry department – the yin and yang of top male poseurs.

 Humor occasionally dips low, but let’s face it -  dumb is fun, and laughter is the best medicine.