Directed by Ben Stiller
While telling the tale of an idiot male fashion model brainwashed into assassinating the prime minister of Malaysia, Zoolander manages to maintain a consistently funny and dysfunctional take on the world.
In the Beginning...
A few years ago VH1 started its annual Fashion Awards program, a pastiche of serious award-giving and self-mockery. In between such prestigious awards as Male Model of the Year and Designer of the Year, the program would feature totally off the wall pseudo-documentary interviews with luminaries in such life-endangering occupations as model agent, perfume sniffer, and fashion designer.
Born into that family of self-absorbed flakes and oddballs was Derek Zoolander, male model. He's drop-dead gorgeous but, somehow, he carries this massive cross of misfortune with all the grace of an egotistical manchild. Make no mistake, male modeling is hard work. And Zoolander (Ben Stiller, Meet the Parents) is a male model at the top of his game. Each of his looks is so intricate, he has given them names like "Blue Steel" and "Le Tigre" – and he's about to unleash upon the world his new look, "Magnum."
If ever there was an industry that was long overdue for a good drubbing, it would be the wacky world of fashion. To that end, Stiller throws in some great jabs about the simple things in life that most of us take for granted, like turning left. And Will Ferrell (Dick) as the main antagonist, Jacobim Mugatu, is a ringer for that bombastic (and now broke) fashion maven, Isaac Mizrahi.
Night of a Thousand Stars
Stiller is aided in his crusade for light-hearted mirth by a stunning collection of stars from music, fashion, and the movies. Keep your eyes peeled for the likes of Lenny Kravitz, Heidi Klum, and Winona Ryder. Those are just a few of the cameos, and the main cast is no cheap suit either. Jon Voight (Lara Croft: Tomb Raider) as Zoolander's father adds a surprising level of depth – and humor – to the movie, while Milla Jovovich (The Fifth Element) relishes her chance to bite the hands that have fed her own modeling career.
There's a lot going on in this mini-mite of mayhem and surprises abound unlike any other movie released this year. To rattle them off here would undermine one of the movie's greatest strengths. So, let's just say aside from a very humorous subplot involving past political assassinations, there are other story threads, such as family, identity, and the carnivorous world of male modeling, fleshed out with the heated competition between Zoolander and the new boy in town, Hansel (Owen Wilson, Shanghai Noon).
All that you Fashion
With such a skimpy concept as male modeling as its basis, Zoolander ran the risk of joining the pantheon of such non-classic fare as The Ladies Man and A Night at the Roxbury (both based on characters from another television institution, Saturday Night Live). But, while it does lose its pace down the catwalk on occasion and gets a little too long in the inseam, it struts enough positive mojo to keep the smile going.
Happily, Stiller leaves no stone unturned in cranking out the gags and in doing so, he fashions a unique character that is somehow a lovable combination of Forrest Gump and Austin Powers.
• Originally published at MovieHabit.com.