Zoolander Movie Review

"The fashion industry has been behind every major assassination in the last 200 years," says a bearded and scruffy, conspiracy-mad David Duchovny in Ben Stiller's ludicrously amusing "Zoolander" -- and only the world's most vapid male model can break his brainwashing and to put a stop to it all.

No, not Fabio. "Too smart," says the Karl Lagerfeld-like leader of a shadowy international syndicate of couture designers, while picking "a beautiful self-absorbed simpleton who can be molded like Jell-O" to kill the prime minister of Malaysia. I mean, the man plans to end slave wages for sweatshop garment workers in his country. He simply must be stopped!

Enter pouty, super-superficial mannequin man Derek Zoolander (Stiller). Desperate to rescue his career after losing the Male Model of the Year Award (insert oh-so-VH-1 ceremony here) to his up-and-coming rival, the dreaded, sexy surfer stud Hansel (Owen Wilson), Derek is ripe for reprogramming. Hired by the industry's designer de jour -- played by Will Ferrell in a poodle wig, charcoal eyeliner and a leather corset -- Derek is brainwashed to snap at a runway show for a new line of homeless bum-inspired ready-to-wear, called Derelicte (that's derelict with an "e" on the end). Ferrell has invited the Third World leader to sit in the front row.

Will Zoolander's echo chamber of a brain be able to resist his conditioning and save the day? Ba-ba-buuumm!

If you're not laughing yet, just close your eyes and picture Stiller sporting a very blank stare and a zebra-print suit, strutting like Travolta with a wedgie.

The fashion world has never taken it on the chin harder than in this screamingly funny spoof of modeling and international intrigue, the likes of which Austin Powers can only dream about.

Co-written and directed by Stiller, and based on a character he created for the utterly contrived VH-1 Fashion Awards a few years back, "Zoolander" isn't just another low-brow, see-what-sticks satire. There are so many onion-like layers of dumb, and smart, and esoteric comedy here that my cheeks hurt from laughing when the credits rolled.

Interestingly, while Stiller's endless mugging as the whisper-voiced bimbo boy toy is a hoot, as a director he's not afraid to let himself be frequently upstaged by perfecto comedy performances from his supporting cast and cameo players (David Bowie, Tommy Hilfiger, Gwen Stefani, Claudia Schiffer -- there are dozens).

Always amazingly artless in his impeccable deadpan delivery, Owen Wilson steals every scene here (as he did in "Meet the Parents" and "Shanghai Noon") by playing Hansel with a straight face. He actually looks strangely sexy, yet is even more absurdly doltish than Stiller without even looking as if he's trying. The two rival models settle their differences and team up to stop the assassination -- but it won't be easy since they haven't three brain cells between them.

Jon Voight and Vince Vaughn are a laugh in uncredited roles as Zoolander's estranged coal-mining kinfolk who refuse to take him in when he's down and out.

Christine Taylor (Marcia in the "Brady Bunch" movies and Stiller's real-life wife) shows real talent and comedic timing as a magazine reporter who stumbles onto the fashion conspiracy while writing a fluff piece-turned-hit piece on Derek Zoolander and male models in general. She also becomes Derek's love interest after giving in to her wild side at an industry orgy. "There was a moment last night," moons Derek, "when she was sandwiched between the two Finish midgets and the Sherpa guy, that I really felt something for her."

Acting from behind a feral chest-toupee, Jerry Stiller (Ben's father, but better known as George Constanza's pop on "Seinfeld") is a chuckle too, as head of Balls Management, which specializes in male models. And ex-model Milla Jovovich chews scenery with great enthusiasm as Ferrell's dominatrix-in-red-leather head henchwoman, sort of a younger, oversexed Natasha from "Rocky & Bullwinkle."

Even habitually over-the-top Ferrell gives a great comedic performance, and that's something he's never done outside of the occasional "Saturday Night Live" skit.


Zoolander Rating

" OK "

Rating: PG-13, Opened: Friday, September 28, 2001


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