Zoolander


Directed by: Ben Stiller
Written by:Ben Stiller, Drake Sather, John Hamburg
Starring: Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Will Ferrell, Christine Taylor, Milla Jovovich, Jerry Stiller
Released: November 1, 2001
Grade: A-

Ben Stiller is an acquired taste.  There are some movies he’s been fantastic in (The Cable Guy and There’s Something About Mary) and others where his unique comedic stylings just haven’t hit the mark (Meet The Parents and Mystery Men).  Aside from starring in many films over the past ten years, Stiller has also directed on three occasions – Reality Bites, The Cable Guy and this, his latest film, Zoolander.

For three consecutive years, Derek Zoolander (Stiller) has been voted the world’s number one model.  This year, he’s faced competition from new kid on the block, Hansel (Wilson) and in a major upset, steals Zoolander’s title at the annual fashion award show.  Devastated by the loss, Derek decides it’s time to retire.  As he says – “maybe there’s more to life than being good looking.”

On the other side of the globe, leading fashion designer Jacobim Mugatu (Ferrell) is facing a financial crisis.  The new prime minister of Malaysia is proposing legislation that will abolish the use of sweatshops and increase pay rates.  With the majority of Mugatu’s clothing made in Malaysia, the increased costs will ruin his competitive market edge.

With the help of his assistant, Katinka (Jovovich), Mugatu convinces Derek to return from retirement and to market his new revolutionary clothing range.  However, following a massage arranged by Katinka, Derek is brainwashed and told to kill the Malaysian prime minister when he attends the clothing launch in New York.

Following Derek for some time has been Time Magazine journalist Matilda Jeffries (Taylor) who despite trashing Derek in a recent article, senses an even bigger story is brewing and that maybe Derek isn’t the mindless self-absorbed model she originally thought.

Initial trailers indicated this film was another cheap shot on the fashion industry but I couldn’t be more wrong.  Zoolander is a subtle parody that mocks the predictability of recent Hollywood scripts.  Stiller is incredible in the leading role and his distinctive voice and monotonous personality is very, very funny.

In fact, the whole cast is great and definitely one of the most well chosen of the year.  Will Ferrell is insanely impressive and Milla Jovovich is unrecognisable.  And what about the cameos?  Cameos are often a tacky way of surprising (and sometimes waking up) the audience but the regularity of big stars popping in for the tinniest of roles was a major plus.  Not to spoil all the surprises but the vast list includes Donald Trump, Natalie Portman, Tommy Hilfiger, Cuba Gooding Jr, Fabio, Lenny Kravitz, David Bowie, Gary Shandling, Lukas Hass, Claudia Schiffer, Sandra Bernhard, Stephen Dorff, Billy Zane, Lance Bass, Winona Ryder and Vince Vaughn.

In the tradition of Austin Powers, Zoolander is a fresh comedy that takes parodies to a higher level.  There’s no gross-out jokes, there’s no toilet humour.  It is simple comedy at the expense of one guy who as the posters say “is 3% body fat, 1% brain activity.”  It seems Ben Stiller is back in my good books again…for now.