Zoolander (2001)

zoolander

“They’re breakdance fighting!”

The Scoop: 201 PG-13, Directed by Ben Stiller and starring Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Christine Taylor and Will Ferrel

Tagline: 3% Body Fat. 1% Brain Activity.

Summary Capsule: The best male model ever is brainwashed into a murderous assassin. Designer jeans, anyone?

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Kyle’s rating: Not as great as it should have been. But very creative.

Kyle’s review: I went into Zoolander having tried my best to not expose myself to any previews or reviews or anything, so that I could be surprised by the jokes and the freaky humor and all of that. Usually this pre-viewing blackout is a good move. I believe it was a good move for Zoolander, because when the film fell flat (as it occasionally did) I was consistently entertained by the unique premise: in this universe male models are the center of the world’s attention and receive the type of adulation we give female models in our universe. That is so insane!

Zoolander is essentially an Austin Powers clone, only instead of a giant James Bond in-joke it is a giant male model in-joke. If that doesn’t sound even remotely like your bag, then don’t even bother with Zoolander. You won’t be able to take it!

If nothing else, Zoolander is the impressive creation of star/director/nepotism-mad Ben Stiller, who clearly put his stamp on and all throughout this movie. And not just by putting his father and wife in important roles. No, if you’re at all familiar with Stiller’s humor from his show or his book or his MTV appearances then you’ll know that he has a certain type of humor that he is known for. I’m not sure how to describe it, but you know it when you see it. It’s usually amusing, occasionally runs into the ground, but seems uniquely personal. That’s pretty cool.

I’ve analyzed enough, I guess. Zoolander is about male model Derek Zoolander and how he’s facing a young upstart rival in Hansel (Owen Wilson) and how, when his career begins to fade compared to Hansel’s rising star, he’s captured and brainwashed by an evil fashion designer to kill a third world leader who might install child labor laws that would end profitability for all the major clothes designers. Not much there, but you can’t tell me that you’ve seen this story before. The movie itself is mostly good. There are movie references (2001 included), tons of celebrity cameos, and lots of comedic shenanigans that can only happen in an Airplane!-esque setting. I wish I could sound more enthusiastic and all, but I guess I was a little let down by Zoolander. Still, it’s worth seeing once.

I guess if I can accomplish anything with this review, I’d like to make you realize you need to not expect There’s Something About Mary when you see Zoolander, and it’s to tell Ben Stiller that hiring his family and doing his own jokes is cool and all, but next time consider hiring someone to just approve a few of those weaker script areas. I’m, uh, available! I still love you for Mary and Flirting with Disaster, Ben! But not in a weird way or anything.

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PoolMan’s rating: In Canada, we call him “Zed-oolander.” Just so you know.

PoolMan’s review: Knowing my friend Dan has always been interesting. From our meeting in a data processing class in high school (where I actually convinced a teacher to hit him) to the occasional beer-and-a-movie night, we’ve always had our share of fun memories. Like the time we dressed up as Bob and Doug McKenzie, or the time he jumped off my roof to surprise my grandmother on her way out the front door (it worked). Suffice it to say, it’s always a fun time with him.

And I’ve learned to associate a few movies over the years with him simply due to the fact that we’ve watched them so many times together. Spaceballs is an example that comes leaping to mind. Knowing full well his sense of humour and mine, when he convinced me that watching Zoolander would be a good time in spite of all the bad stuff I’d heard about it, I jumped on board (or rather, his couch), and off we went into the fabulous world of male modeling.

I’ll say this about Ben Stiller: he can still surprise me. This is the guy who leapt from “famous” to “obnoxiously famous” with a single wad of “hair gel” on his ear in There’s Something About Mary. Even if it’s not always my particular sense of humour he’s reaching for, he keeps trying new and different stuff, and that’s respectable (and yes, I’m aware the Zoolander character is a few years old already… cut me some slack!). Sure, it’s nepotistic and full of flagrantly pulled-in favours, but Zoolander still has exactly what it needs to succeed: wierd-ass comedy.

This flick has so much liquid weirdness you could bathe in it. First off, the driving concept behind the movie is that every single major assassination in the last couple of centuries was carried out by a male model, starting with Lincoln, and moving into JFK. (Heck, I bet there’s a frustrated underwear model running around right now furious that he botched Reagan!) Now couple that with the fact that these models are just two brain cells from not being able to breathe anymore (three of them have a playful gas fight at a gas station, and end up immolating themselves). You can see the conflict building here, can’t you? Now, add a dash of psychotic ex-80’s guitar synth player, and you’ve got some kind of kooky.

Hey, I’ll even give Zoolander points for completing what I thought was an impossible objective: putting Will Ferrell in a role requiring him to be a really loud, obnoxious bad guy, and MAKING ME LIKE IT! I actually think the Mugatu scenes are pretty damn funny, and at the very least, it’s the funniest I’ve ever seen Ferrell pull off. The scene where he gets all mad at Todd and quickly turns to play-growling and flirting before getting back to business cracks me up something fierce. And this from a guy who normally can’t even LOOK at Will Ferrell. Nice.

Zoolander is equal parts Austin Powers, There’s Something About Mary, and… well, I can’t think of what else. Chalk it up to a lack of movies about male models (thank God), but the hook that makes this flick funny really does make it pretty unique. This ain’t Shakespeare, folks, but it’s fun, has some good gags you can use over and over again (Dan’s office is apparently rife with Zoolander quotes), and hey, there’s a sex scene with a Finnish dwarf. How often do we see that nowadays? (outside of Kyle’s collection, that is…)

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Justin’s rating: In response to PoolMan’s rating, how come Canadians don’t end every letter of their alphabet with -ed? Dead, Fed, Ged, Head…

Justin’s review: Unlike most “normal” and “rehibilitated” movie critics, we here at Mutant Reviewers have the luxury of simply reviewing movies we honestly feel like covering, whether good or bad or otherwise interesting. In other words, we’re not just forced to write up every single movie that comes down the pipe, which would slowly erode our souls and form deep crevices of resentment and bottomless shame. I think this is a good thing, for many reasons, and it’s why I didn’t review Zoolander back when I first watched it, almost a year ago. My complete feelings on the film were a half-hearted shrug and a healthy handshake, and that was almost that.

Yet it’s funny how our tastes and opinions for movies evolve over time. When I was at camp this summer as a counselor and merry trouble-maker, I kept hearing some of the high school workers there quote Derek Zoolander’s trademark mispronunciations, and it generally occurred to me that Zoolander had become somewhat of a cult flick without my express permission.

You know how that makes ME feel. Well, after a few mandatory “Off with their head!” proclamations, I re-rented this flick and watched it through the eyes of a newborn babe. Refreshing, although it did make me crave formula for some reason.

Based off of a couple of VH1 Fashion Awards shorts, Zoolander is the fractured fairy tale of a perfect male model (not the good, “role-model” type; a shallow, “bodily model” type) who is brainwashed by an evil clothing designer to assassinate the leader of Malaysia because of some whoop-to-do over child labor. Starting with his character, the farcical nature spreads to every aspect of this film, shining the harsh light of THY NAME IS VANITY, REPENT! onto the story.

Basically, it’s a group of naive, gullible, and incredibly shallow men prancing around and acting so effeminate that the whole of San Fransisco has asked it to tone it down, just a smidge. Zoolander (Ben Stiller) and his arch-rival Hanson (Owen Wilson) are the epitome of every person you’ve seen so into themselves that real life just fails to be as interesting as what’s in a mirror.

And, admittedly, it’s pretty funny. I like to laugh at people much dumber than I am, because it makes my limited ability to count past 12 and my lack of comprehension of what exactly a “preposition” is all the more easy to deal with. Everyone in Zoolander is as outlandish as could be while still keeping the film located entirely inside our universe. Mugatu (Will Farrell) alone has a hairstyle that would look gauche even if it replaced Carrot Top’s wiggage.

I had a college professor once aptly sum up my society when he said, “The religion in America is Be Thin and Buy Stuff.” We may nod and laugh along to that, but we probably continue to believe it, too. Any movie that takes down vain preening, the stupidity that is every single female fashion magazine, the horrible social pressure that “imperfect” people have to fix their outward appearance, and careless gasoline fights… a movie like this is a bonifide hero in my book.

Blue…STEEL!

Intermission!

  • An big old bunch of celebrities in cameos and bit parts, including David Bowie, David Duchovny, Milla Jovovich, Fabio, Cuba Gooding Jr., Lenny Kravitz, Winona Ryder, Natalie Portman, Andy Dick, Jon Voight, Garry Shandling, and too many others to mention. Way to call in those favors, Ben!
  • Breakdance fighting!
  • Mugatu’s got some serious hair going on… indeed
  • It can take over 8 years to create a special facial look
  • Owen looks good with wings
  • The Zoolander calendar, with the same picture on every page
  • “3 Yeers In A Row” sign
  • The 4 caricature paintings in the apartment
  • Penguin PJs
  • Playing with gasoline might not be the best idea
  • Love the white trench at the funeral
  • The Model… Idiot
  • I so want Mugatu’s purple sunglasses
  • You can get the Black Lung after one day of mining
  • Okay, that massuese is horrid beyond belief
  • Although Mugatu’s hypnotic video will probably haunt me for the rest of my life
  • Daiye = Day
  • David Bowie’s introduction with musical cue
  • How is it even possible to get your underwear off without taking your pants off? I guess that’s why they call it movie magic!
  • Some people aren’t ambiturners
  • David Duchovney, how far you’ve fallen
  • Hansel and Zoolander’s wide-eyed look after hearing Matilda’s confession is classic
  • The black actor doing “Blue Steel” is dead-on
  • The 2001 apes reference
  • The character of Derek Zoolander was originally created to be shown with the 1996 VH1 Fashion Awards as a short (and again in 1997).
  • After the Twin Towers bombing, shots of the WTC were digitally erased from the film prior to its September 2001 release.
  • The writers put David Bowie’s scene in before they were actually sure he would do it.
  • “The Mugatu” is a monster from an episode of the original “Star Trek” (1966) TV series. It looked like a white ape with a single horn on its forehead.
  • Owen Wilson, who plays Hansel, wore a wig for the entire movie. He was filming Behind Enemy Lines at the same time, and had to keep his hair short for the role.

Groovy Quotes

Derek: [looking at a building model] This is a center for ants! How can we teach children to read if they can’t even fit inside the building?
Girl: When I was in sixth grade, I became bulimic.
Derek: You can read minds?

Evil Lady: A beautiful, self-absorbed simpleton who can be manipulated and moulded like Jell-o.
Evil Man 1: Or cookie dough.
Evil Man 2: Play-doh.
Evil Lady: Any kind of dough.

[about Zoolander]
Natalie Portman: He’s almost TOO good looking. That would be my… my main deterrent to you know, considering a relationship.

Reporter: Are you worried about Hansel?
Zoolander: Not as worried as I am about Gretel.

Zoolander: Did you guys ever think there was more to life than being really, really, really ridiculously good looking?

Zoolander: Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got an after-funeral party to attend.

Maury: Right now this guy is so hot, he could take a crap, wrap it in tinfoil, put a couple of fishhooks on it and sell it to Queen Elizabeth as earrings!

[in an ad as a mer-man]
Zoolander: Moisture is the essence of wetness… and wetness is the essence of beauty.

Mugatu: Todd, are you not aware that I get farty and bloated with a foamy latte?
Todd: My mistake, Jacoby!
Mugatu: Your mistake indeed!

Zoolander: You’ve gotta tame the beast before you let it out of its cage.

Zoolander: Thank God I wore underwear today!

Mugatu: They’re breakdance fighting!

Answering Machine: You have… 1200… messages.
Derek: That is a bit above average.

Derek: [coughs weakly] I think I’m getting the Black Lung, pop!

Dad: I thank the Lord she didn’t live to see her son as a mermaid!
Derek: Mer-man!

Mugatu: Obey my dog!

Mugatu: I feel like I’m taking crazy pills!

Derek Zoolander: There was a moment last night, when she was sandwiched between the two Finnish dwarves and the Maori tribesmen, where I thought, “Wow, I could really spend the rest of my life with this woman”.

Zoolander: Rufus, Brint, and Meekus were like brothers to me. And when I say brother, I don’t mean, like, an actual brother, but I mean it like the way black people use it. Which is more meaningful I think.

Zoolander: If there is anything that this horrible tragedy can teach us, it’s that a male model’s life is a precious, precious commodity. Just because we have chiseled abs and stunning features, it doesn’t mean that we too can’t not die in a freak gasoline fight accident.

Derek Zoolander: Oh, I thought you were going to tell me what a bad eugoogalizor I am.
Matilda: What?
Derek Zoolander: A eugoogalizor, one who speaks at funerals. Or did you think I’d be too stupid to know what a eugoogoly was?

If you liked this movie, try these:

  • Austin Powers
  • Drop Dead Gorgeous
  • Austin Powers 2

3 comments

  1. Good review Kyle. Especially like your intro to the description of the story: “Basically, it’s a group of naive, gullible, and incredibly shallow men prancing around and acting so effeminate that the whole of San Fransisco has asked it to tone it down, just a smidge.” Very funny and true.
    Cheers,
    Mick

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