“I’m sure there’s more to life than just being really, really, really good looking and I plan on finding out what that is.”
Ben Stiller purses his lips and spikes his hair to play male model Derek Zoolander—fashion icon and intellectual pygmy—in Zoolander (2001).
He’s the world’s most celebrated and self-absorbed runway monkey but his reign is threatened by Hansel (Owen Wilson), a fast rising flower child model and mystic goober with all the culture of a California beach bum. Which makes Zoolander putty in the hands of bitchy fashionista Mugatu (Will Ferrell in a bleached Bozo cut of a hair-do), who brainwashes him into becoming a ticking time-bomb of an assassin. His assignment: kill a progressive Asian politician whose pesky child labor laws and progressive wages threaten the profits of the vaguely Eastern European shadow couturier syndicate.
Think of Zoolander as the anti-Austin Powers set to the retro-kitsch sounds of Frankie Goes to Hollywood and Wham! Stiller spins gags around his harmless idiot and enlists friends and acquaintances to join in on the fun. Jerry Stiller (Ben’s father) yammers on like a Catskills comedian as his manager, former comedy partner Andy Dick puts on pounds of latex to play a flabby German hausfrau masseuse, and celebrities from Winona Ryder to David Bowie to male model incarnate Fabio (among others) pop up as themselves in cute cameos.
Stiller originally created the character with Drake Sather for a VH1/Vogue Fashion Awards skit and he directs himself for the character’s feature debut. While he is capable of being an inventive and intelligent cultural satirist, this is pure silliness built around a one-joke character: stupid. To his credit the gags hit more than they miss and Stiller has moments of inspired absurdity, but he’s capable of something more cutting and clever. It’s junk food moviemaking: fun to snack on, but hardly a substantial meal.
Christine Taylor (Stiller’s real life wife) plays straight man to this catwalk circus, Jon Voight plays Zoolander’s coal miner father, Milla Jovovich, Billy Zane, and David Duchovny costar.
The Blu-ray and DVD special editions feature commentary by director/star Ben Stiller and his co-writers Drake Sather and John Hamburg (who concentrate on the conceptual road of the screenplay from inspiration to finished script), deleted and extended scenes (all with optional commentary by Stiller), outtakes, an alternate end title sequence (with more dancing by Will Ferrell), the two skits from the VH1/Vogue Fashion Awards that introduced the Zoolander character and inspired the film, stills, TV spots and trailers. And if you can’t figure out how to navigate that menu, Derek Zoolander himself will guide you through it. He’s not much help, but he is pretty funny.