Zoolander 2, film review: Hansel and Derek don't look so hot right now

(12A)​ Ben Stiller, 102 mins. Starring: Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Penélope Cruz

Derek Zoolander has been having a tough time of it since his first screen outing more than a decade ago. Ben Stiller's idiotic and narcissistic male model has re-invented himself as a "hermit crab" called Eric and hidden away from the world after disaster in his private life. His old friend Hansel (Owen Wilson) is also a recluse, ashamed of his disfigured facial features. This is the starting point for a very uneven sequel.

Much of Zoolander's charm has disappeared with age. Whereas his goofiness was winning, now it often grates. The screenplay isn't especially witty or sophisticated, either. The story revolves around Zoolander's attempts to rebuild his relationship with his estranged son, and to solve the mystery of who has been murdering the world's greatest pop stars.

For no good reason, much of the action plays out in Rome, where the overweight Zoolander Jr is in an orphanage. Penélope Cruz, usually the most subtle of actors, plays a member of the Interpol fashion police, a former swimwear model who was unable to progress in her career because of her oversized breasts. (Some of the humour is of the sub-Viz variety.) 

The film is packed with celebrity cameos, some (Benedict Cumberbatch in gothic drag) of them funny, others just pointless.

A hit-and-miss affair is given a shot of adrenaline by Will Ferrell, back as Zoolander's nemesis Mugatu. Ferrell has an offbeat flamboyance that transcends the banality of the material. He presides over some of the film's best scenes, acting as high priest to a coven of real-life fashion figures. They're all looking for an injection of youthful vitality – something the film could have benefited from.

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