CGB Review of Zoolander (2001)

So when can I enroll my future children into the Derek Zoolander Center for Kids Who Can’t Read Good?

This is my review of Zoolander!


Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller) is a superstar in the world of male modeling.  However, after winning Male Model of the Year award three years in a row, he finds himself going downhill.  When he is bested by hot newcomer Hansel (Owen Wilson), Zoolander searches for new meaning in his life.  A second chance comes in the form of Mugatu, an eccentric fashion czar who offers Derek a shot at a comeback by making him the face of his new “Derelicte” clothing line.  However, it turns out that Mugatu has a far more sinister plan for Zoolander, which involves using him to assassinate the Prime Minister of Malaysia.

The Hits
The most important question when reviewing a comedy is this: “Is it funny?”  Even though this movie came out fifteen years ago, it had me on the floor, dying from laughter.  The premise is ridiculously hilarious with creative jokes, perfect timing and is easy to get invested in all thanks to Ben Stiller’s whacky performance as the moron with a heart of gold.  Derek Zoolander is a great example of how to write a lovable dimwit correctly.  He is dense but not annoying, strangely innocent and naïve without becoming childish, and I like how the only thing he is good at is modeling.  If he was a failure in everything, then it would make him an incompetent protagonist.  I also appreciate how he has never been late for a show; his commitment to his craft is believable and makes him the best person to guide us through the bizarre narrative.
Will Ferrell’s Mugatu is an excellent comedic villain!  A self-absorbed fashionista with an off-the-wall hairdo and bulging eyes, Mugatu serves as a foil to Derek Zoolander; where Derek is a good-natured halfwit, Mugatu is a shady designer with guile.
I like Christine Taylor’s Matilda Jeffries as the film’s straightman/woman.  An outlandish story like this needs an Average Joe character to balance out the weirdness.  Matilda is professional without being standoffish, inquisitive without ever becoming intrusive; she is a great everywoman and a good friend to Zoolander.
The idea that male models were designed to be assassins is really funny.  When this bit of exposition is revealed to Derek and Matilda, I went into a laughing fit.  I love how it is explained in a way that makes the notion somewhat believable while still emphasizing how insane it is.

The Misses
Okay, can we talk about the whole “Derek can’t turn left” part of the story?   I’ve watched this movie twice and both times, I saw Ben Stiller turning his head left to talk to other characters the entire time.  Seriously, this is kind of a big continuity error.
I really like Mugatu and I kind of feel that we didn’t get to see enough of him.  I’m not saying that he needed to be in every scene, but we see him for a few minutes in the opening scene, then he’s in a handful of other scenes and then he kind of disappears for a while until the climax.  It would have been nice to have given the main villain a little more screen time.

Zoolander is an offbeat delight!  The characters are lovable, the tone is clear in its absurdity and the costumes and makeup are the best I’ve seen since last year’s Cinderella film.  I will definitely be watching this again and am looking forward to Zoolander 2!

Saint Josephine Bakhita, pray for us.

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