Brace yourselves: Ben Stiller wrote an “Adam and Steve” joke into Zoolander 2. It’s not grossly offensive or mean-spirited, but you do wonder why it’s there. Even the characters comment on the seeming inappropriateness of the gag late in the movie, while simultaneously declaring that the brutal, Robocop-style killing of Justin Bieber, which occurs in Zoolander 2’s first five minutes, really wasn’t so bad.
That’s pretty much all you need to know about Zoolander 2. The sequel to the 2001 comedy—once again directed by Stiller, from a script by Stiller, John Hamburg, Nick Stoller and Justin Therooux—isn’t so much a comedy as a delivery device for celebrity cameos, whose timing and context deliver nearly all of Zoolander 2’s biggest laughs. There may never be another film—comedy, drama or even documentary—that features Jim Lehrer, Anna Wintour and Skrillex within the same narrative. For that reason alone, attention must be paid.
At the least, it’s fun. Zoolander 2’s story doesn’t really go anywhere—there’s nothing here as daring as the sweatshop commentary and Manchurian Candidate-lite plot machinations of the first film, pretty much no new steez—but does that matter, when you’ve got Stiller and Owen Wilson playing glib, over-the-hill male models? When you’ve got Kristen Wiig playing an inscrutable designer and plastic surgery disaster who literally floats through her scenes? When you’ve got Will Ferrell playing a character who is, in the broad strokes, a cross between Malcolm McLaren and Pennywise the Clown?
I disliked the first Zoolander when I saw it in theaters, but warmed up to it over time. Now, several aspects of the 2001 comedy have crept into my pop culture vocabulary: “Magnum,” “Orange Mocha Frappucinos,” etc. Conversely, I enjoyed Zoolander 2 from the get-go, though I wonder how I’ll feel about the movie on subsequent viewings, when the surprise of the cameos has worn off and I get a chance to really think about how tacky “Adam and Steve” really is. I will say this, though: I have a new measure of respect for Justin Bieber. He took those few hundred rounds in the chest and gut like a trooper.
Zoolander 2 (PG-13): ★★★☆☆