Zoolander (2001)
Zoolander (2001)

Genre: Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 29 min.

Release Date: September 28th, 2001 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Ben Stiller Actors: Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Christine Taylor, Will Ferrell, Milla Jovovich, David Duchovny, Jon Voight, Jerry Stiller




he new Malaysian Prime Minister Hassan has promised to raise minimum wage and start the process of reforming child labor laws in his country. But the cheap sweatshop work is absolutely necessary for Jacobim Mugatu (Will Ferrell), a power-hungry clothing designer in league with corrupt fashion executives who wish to stop Hassan’s progress. Mugatu is assigned to brainwash the most malleable (like Jell-O or cookie dough), doltish human being alive to assassinate the Prime Minister. His target is three-time male model of the year Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller), who is attending the VH1 Fashion Awards to defend his title against up-and-coming blonde supermodel Hansel (Owen Wilson). When Zoolander unexpectedly loses, his life starts to fall apart – his roommates die in a freak gas station play-fight accident, his agent, Maury Ballstein (Jerry Stiller) of Balls Models, seems to be disinterested in his success (and conspiring against him), and his soul-searching visit to the coal mining country of southern New Jersey to visit his disapproving father (Jon Voight) ends in disaster.

Upon his return, Derek is approached by Mugatu to be the face of the new clothing line “Derelicte” (with models adorned in various bits of trash, described by Mugatu as “a fashion, a way of life inspired by the very homeless, the vagrants, the crack whores that make this wonderful city so unique”). As part of the front, Zoolander is whisked away by henchwoman Katinka Ingabogovinanana (Milla Jovovich) to a secret mind-conditioning facility, just a few days before the New York Fashion Week show where the Prime Minister will be in attendance. Meanwhile, Time Magazine reporter Matilda Jeffries (Christine Taylor), trying to get to the bottom of the assassination plot, follows Zoolander around town as he sorts out his problems with Hansel, partakes in copious amounts of drugs, and follows clues provided by famous hand model J.P. Prewitt (David Duchovny).

“Zoolander” mercilessly spoofs the image-obsessed fashion industry, celebrity culture, and modeling, but in a way so outlandishly infantile, no one could interpret it seriously enough to take offense. To aid in the nonsense are parodies of popular yet completely contrastive movies, including “Rocky,” “2001: A Space Odyssey,” and “The Godfather Part II” (each forced into the screenplay without any genuine relevance). Further skits include multiple musical montages that demonstrate the utter stupidity of the male models – the best of which are a gasoline-drenching, frolicsome fracas akin to a wet T-shirt contest, and the “walk off” between rivals Zoolander and Hansel, judged by David Bowie. That last scene is so memorably absurd that other shows have spoofed it in turn.

While the movie is similar to the slew of extremely over-exaggerated, cartoonish, slapstick and caricature-filled creations of “Saturday Night Live,” it’s actually based on short skits filmed for the VH1 Fashion Awards television specials in the mid ‘90s. Directed by Ben Stiller himself, this project is almost too silly for words, with gags that defy physics, jokes that abruptly cease or aimlessly shoot off in a tangent, and character designs that are so idiotic they barely serve their satirical purpose. But, impressively, “Zoolander” features a tremendous cast joining in on the self-mockery, with appearances by many fashion icons and celebrities (including Donald Trump, Tommy Hilfiger, Fabio, Heidi Klum, Gwen Stefani, and Paris Hilton) and cameos by comedians/actors Judah Friedlander, Vince Vaughn, Patton Oswalt, Billy Zane, Stephen Dorff, Winona Ryder, Natalie Portman, and dozens more.

– Mike Massie

  • 4/10