Comedy sequels are by rule pretty unnecessary; Zoolander 2, a comedy sequel that comes 15 years after the original might be the most unnecessary of all. Ignoring the question of why, Zoolander 2 isn’t an unenjoyable movie. Stiller and Wilson are a solid comedy duo and there is a significant uptick in energy when Will Ferrell’s Mugatu reappears. The whole thing ends up feeling drawn a little thin. There are some good jokes, and some good call backs to jokes from the original, but eventually the callbacks and the overused cameos overwhelm everything else. Zoolander 2 has just enough life to it to not be the complete waste that it seemed almost inevitable that it would be.
The plot, such as it is, is about Zoolander and Hansel stepping back into the limelight after more than a decade away; both sent away by the same disaster that helped reset the status quo from the first movie’s happy ending. After some initial awkwardness the two blatantly state their character motivations to each other and team up. They are soon joined by Valentina, a member of Interpol’s fashion police, who helps the duo get to the bottom of who is killing the world’s most beautiful pop-stars.
The films kind of putters along, making jokes about how Derek and Hansel are stupid and shallow and old, until it gets to the third act and Mugatu is revealed as the mastermind behind everything. Which of course he was. After that it has a stronger sense of purpose as it builds to its climax. Ferrell’s Mugatu has a much stronger presence than the other villains, who were still playing coy about their allegiance.
What good jokes the movie have end up buried underneath way too many celebrity cameo’s that amount to little more than moments of look who it is. The ones that work are actually worked into the plot, like the bits with Justin Bieber, Sting and Billy Zane. There is a sense of diminishing returns, as each comes out to less surprise and less purpose as the movie goes along. That is strange against the somewhat understated jokes in the movie. Near the halfway mark they meet Sting who imparts on them some important information. It is a deliberate call back to a similar scene with David Duchovny from the first movie, but it is also closing the mystery of who is Hansel’s father. Hansel has been looking for his father and it has been made very clear that it is Sting. In the scene he is disguised as a priest, so Father Sting waits with anticipation for Hansel to realize that he is his father. He doesn’t and movie just lets it go for the moment.
Zoolander 2 is a movie without a purpose. Most of its good material was used in the first film, all the jokes it could make about the ridiculousness of the fashion industry and celebrity and Zoolander’s stupidity have been made. All that is left is a trio of characters in Zoolander, Hansel and Mugatu who have just enough life in them carry viewers out of the theater with a grin on their face.