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A Review of Zoolander Two (And The Art of the Cameo)

February 19, 2016

The fashion world was nothing if not tickled by Ben Stiller’s gentle ribbing 2001 film Zoolander.  Sure he poked fun.  But it was in a way that celebrated the idiosyncrasies of an often puerile industry.  At first, audiences didn’t get it.  The jokes were just too bizarre.  But the flick had legs and within time Zoolander was certified cult classic.

Inevitably life copies art and Zoolander became standard viewing for anyone within the fashion industry.  To drop a reference from the film was to flash your fashion industry union card.

“Oh, I'm sorry, did my pin get in the way of your ass? Do me a favor and lose five pounds immediately or get out of my building like now!” Mugatu

A major part of the film’s appeal was the way cameos were used – or rather, how they weren’t used.  Normally, in films, cameos come few and far between.  The goal: a brief “wow, they’re in this” and then the film moves on.  Yet, directorial restraint, wasn’t the point of Zoolander. Cameos were everywhere: Posh Spice, Baby Spice, Paris Hilton, Winona Ryder,….and of course David Bowie.  It was outright decoration with humans, a patchwork of plaid, modern geometric, floral…All, people. All faces.  All to an excess.

“Hey it’s Billy Zane!” Derek Zoolander

So, here we are, 15 years later.  Zoolander 2 is in the theaters – Billy Zane with it – and he brought company.  Justin Bieber is the first celebrity we see.  But he’s quickly pulled out of the movie by a long vaudevillian hook.  Sorry Biebs, there’s just too many celebs waiting in line to photo bomb Zoolandia.  Fred Arminson, Susan Sarandon, Katy Perry, Willy Nelson, Neil DeGrasse Tyson.

“Hey, it’s Billy Zane – again”

So far, the reviews for the movie have been tepid to bad (much like the original).  The reaction is understandable. It’s a shallow movie.  It’s has body of an action movie with the soul of a comedy.  Hmm?  Or, maybe it has body of a comedy with the soul of an action movie?  I can’t really tell – don’t really care either.

“It’s a glitter bomb”

But that’s the point.  The movie – like the industry is all style and adornment.  It's an explanation of the fashion world that makes an example of itself. I think they call that self-reflexivity in the art world (I wouldn’t know though). The movie – like the fashion world pushes the threshold of shallowness to the point where it starts getting deep again. An ethos well understood by Tommy Hilfiger, Valentino Garavani, Martin Saints and Alexander Wang; all of whom also make cameos in the movie.

“It’s a glitter bomb” (Did I use that already?)

by Philip Marshall

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