Ben Stiller directs and stars in this 2001 comedy about a self-absorbed model brainwashed into assassinating the Malaysian Prime Minister. The film also stars an all-star cast of well-rounded and firmly-established comedic actors and actresses such as Owen Wilson, Christine Taylor, and Will Ferrell. But somehow this 90-minute-long movie plays with too many ingredients and the final product ends up tasting bland and confused. The story is decently paced, yet horribly clichéd and simple, but the plot is confused and throws in one or two extra characters that clutters up the movie. There are also countless celebrity cameos such as Donald Trump, David Bowie, and Natalie Portman that serve no true purpose to the film except adding cheap thrills.
The majority of the acting in this movie is silly and over-the-top, which occasionally works for Owen Wilson but otherwise creates unbelievable characters that the audience fails to connect with. And if the audience don’t care about the characters, they won’t care about the plot, and then they won’t care about the movie. That is not what you want in a film. I should quickly add that I am not a big Ben Stiller fan and never have been. And I think Ben Stiller’s acting in this film was awfully tiresome and made for an uncomfortable 90-minute watch of him in a not-so-funny character of Derek Zoolander. He played too much on old ideas and jokes about his character’s disgusting personality and not-so-funny premise. Owen Wilson plays opposite Stiller as the much more laid back Hansel, and Wilson had quite a few funny moments because his character had a more believable sense about him. Wilson and Stiller also had a great power-play between them in which Wilson really shined through. Will Ferrell also played an over-the-top character, Mugatu, who barely had a proper personality and which seemed to be a waste of an otherwise talented comedian. Nathan Lee Graham played Ferrell’s flamboyant sidekick with very few lines but with a very prominent screen-presence and played very well using both physical and facial comedy.
There were a few characters added to the film who were nowhere as outlandish and unbelievable as Stiller, Wilson, and Ferrell’s characters. Christine Taylor plays a young reporter who eventually teams up with Zoolander to take down Mugatu’s operation. As she has previous shown, Taylor is very talented at playing the straight-man in over-the-top comedies, and this movie is no trend-breaker. Jerry Stiller plays Zoolander’s agent with a much more believable and likeable nuance even though his character is still funny and unique. Jerry Stiller really shows that a ridiculous character can be likeable and easy-to-root-for if the actor just tones down the character by remaining human in character rather than falling in the same trap that Ben Stiller through himself in.
The story itself is very predictable and you know how the whole thing will unfold itself within the first twenty minutes of the movie. Yet the movie still makes itself more confusing and twisted than it perhaps had to by adding characters that perhaps weren’t necessary. David Duchovny has a screen time of around four minutes and builds a feeling that his character will be important and then the character doesn’t show up for the rest of the film. Jon Voight, Judah Friedlander, and Vince Vaughn appear as Zoolander’s father and brothers for about six minutes or so doing much the same as Duchovny, making their characters seem important to the plot, but then disappear for the rest of the film to appear at the very end again. For a 90-minute run time this film really just tries to throw as many characters and ideas into the film as possible and this makes for a very unpleasant viewing and very unsatisfying conclusion.
Essentially this film is a big potpourri of mostly over-the-top characters who essentially fail to be funny or connectable and the final outcome is unpleasant and unsatisfying. This movie really wastes an otherwise talented group of actors who, had they perhaps had better direction, may actually have been funny and watchable. But this was absolutely not the case, and therefore the film failed to make me enjoy it and failed to get me onboard in what could have been a very funny adventure-comedy.
Worst Aspect- Ben Stiller
Best Aspect- Jerry Stiller