Zoolander (2001) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Zoolander is an expanded version of a running gag that Ben Stiller used to do on the VH1 fashion awards - a parody of the modeling world, as epitomized by Zoolander, a loveable but brain-dead model who basically talked to the camera. In the feature-length version, Zoolander (Stiller, who also directed) has aged to the twilight of his career, and is thinking about whether there is something more in life than being really, really, really, really good-looking.



DVD info from Amazon.

Commentary by Ben Stiller and writers Drake Sather and John Hamburg
5 deleted scenes with commentary by Ben Stiller
5 extended scenes with commentary by Ben Stiller
Music video - "Start the Commotion" by the Wiseguys
2 original skits from the 'VH1/ Vogue Fashion Awards, 1996/97'
Alternate end title sequence
Photo gallery
Widescreen anamorphic format, 2.35:1

In general, the film isn't a great comedy, but it has some moments of loony inspiration. Think of it as Dumb and Dumber Lite.

I enjoyed Stiller's attempt to find his roots by returning to his coal mining family and attempting to return to his family's work down in the coal mines, thus providing a constant source of embarrassment to his tough-ass father. ("Thank god your mother never lived to see her son as a mermaid"). Jon Voight is the dad, and Vince Vaughn has an uncredited cameo (no lines!) as one of Zoolander's brothers.

Vaughn wasn't the only cameo player, by any means. About 100 people from the fashion and entertainment industries play themselves, ranging from David Bowie to Billy Zane to Winona Ryder to Natalie Portman to Donald Trump and a zillion runway models. Milla Jovovich, a former model herself, is almost unrecognizable in one of the secondary leads, as an evil Russian. David Duchovny is completely unrecognizable except for his voice.

The film got 65% positive reviews, but nobody seemed to be very positive. Most of the critics felt about the same as I did, that it was nothing special, but was good for a few quick laughs.

The most interesting thing about the film is that Roger Ebert gave it one star. His primary objection was the film's cavalier attitude toward the Third World, particularly because it focused on an Islamic country. He argued that this condescension is the very attitude that makes this part of the world ripe for exploitation by anti-American activists.

I thought he meant well, but his point was superficial. The film doesn't make fun of the third world, but rather the capitalist exploitation of it by the developed countries. In the storyline, the prime minister of Malaysia wants to end the sweat shops which produce an endless stream of low-cost clothing for the Western countries. The powerful magnates in the clothing industry intend to assassinate him, because their profit stream depends on the maintenance of the low-wage sweat shops. In fact, I thought the film made a fairly good point, and wasn't so very far from reality. In real life, the clothing barons might not assassinate the guy, but you can bet they have lots of money invested in his political rivals!

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: two and a half stars. Ebert 1/4, Berardinelli 2.5/4, BBC 3/5, filmcritic.com 3/5

The People Vote ...

  • with their dollars ... A moderate success. A 2500 screen roll-out produced $45 million gross, $28 million budget.


IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C.

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