Ah the life of a model. All that glamour, money, famous people wanting to be your friend, and those outrageous parties, the life that many dream of.
To many of us, we know that the glamour is often an illusion as modeling is a world filled with backstabbing, infighting, and all manner of leaches that use people and then spit them out. Most people are well aware of this, but why do so many people want to be a part of it? It is the desire for fame, money, and all the trappings?
While that is often part of it, the simple answer for some is that they just do not know any better. Such is the case of Derek Zoolander, three time male model of the year, and inventor of the famous Blue Steel look.
Writer, Director, and Producer Ben Stiller has created with the help of MTV movie awards writer Drake Sather, Derek Zoolander, male model supreme and as clueless as he is famous. Derek is a legend in his own, mind, obsessed with his looks, and very jealous and petty. Ah, but beneath this shiny front, there is a man in deep pain.
Derek is up for an unprecedented fourth Male Model of the Year award, and standing is his way, is the hot new model Hansel(Owen Wilson) who Derek sees as a poser not worthy of any attention. When the winner is announced, Derek strides to the podium to give yet another acceptance speech. Fate has dealt Derek a cruel blow, when he realizes that Hansel, has won the award, and that he is no longer the top model in the world. As a result, Derek suffers depression and starts to feel vulnerable and question his life and choices he has made.
Before he knows what has happened, Derek has lost his three friends in a gas fight accident, and is portrayed in a Time Magazine cover story as an idiot. Desperate to find out if there is more to life than a pretty face, Derek heads home to work in the family business, coal mining.
Needless to say, Derek’s father (John Voight), is not happy to see his son back, and is even less impressed with his male mermaid commercials, and lack of a manly job. The reunion is short lived, and Derek soon becomes a pawn in a deadly scheme created by designer, Mugatu(Will Ferrell), and his hired muscle, Katinka(Milla Jovovich) from using him to kill the new Malaysian Prime Minister. It seems the new Prime Minister is bent on closing sweatshops in his land, and since sweatshops are the backbone of the fashion industry, and he is not willing to be bribed, he must be stopped at all costs.
Assisting Derek in his quest to find himself and who is behind the plot, are Stiller’s real life Wife Christine Taylor, as Matilda, a reporter and love interest, and comedy legend, and Ben’s father Jerry Stiller plays the head of the Derek’s modeling agency Maury Ballstein.
One of the biggest surprises in the film is Wilson, who worked with stiller previously in “Meet the Parents” and “Permanent Midnight”. Wilson portrays Hansel as a deep, spiritual person, who while not as shallow as Derek, is just as clueless, but a globe trotting thrill seeker who is looks up to Derek secretly. When Wilson and Stiller are on the screen, they have a great chemistry and it results in some great comic moments in the film.
This film is one of those films that is difficult to review. On one hand, it was stupid, lacking a story, and many of the jokes were not that funny, or seemed forced. However, there were some great laughs in the film, and on more than one instance I caught myself laughing long and hard at some of the antics that were unfolding on screen.
Stiller shows that he is a talent, as he keeps Derek sympathetic despite portraying him as shallow and selfish. We learn that Derek is worried about losing his fame, and that he family does not accept his career. He also decides that he wants to help others, but is not sure whom to help, simply “those who need help” he proclaims.
What makes “Zoolander” interesting is the way it shows the bad side of an industry while poking fun at the excess. For example, we see the shallow, plotting characters that are only concerned with who are hot today. We also see the extreme measures some will take to succeed in the industry, and we see the pain that many have when they realize that they are hot today, and forgotten tomorrow as is the case of a retired hand model played by David Duchovny.
As a director, Stiller keeps the film moving along and does not take himself or the film too seriously and as such neither should the audience. While not the comedies that Stiller gave audiences with “Meet the Parents”, and “There’s Something About Mary”, Stiller shows that he is not afraid to try new avenues to express himself. In the lower profile yet funny “Mystery Men: and “Keeping the Faith” Stiller showed characters that he can get comedy as either playing the straight guy, or as the over the top character. At times, “Zoolander” is very funny, as Derek has his extremes, yet has a sensitive, caring side. The walk off scene between Derek and Hansel is very funny and had the audience in stitches. So how does the final product add up? Much like a fashion show, gaudy, at times extreme, some presentations hit, others miss, but in the end, most of us had a good time. When seeing “Zoolander” take a cue from Derek, and turn your brain off for a while and you just might have a good time in spite of yourself.
3 stars out of 5