Ben Stiller's latest film, Zoolander, an Austin Powers style rip off dedicated to parodying the shallowness of the male model industry, certainly contains an abundance of effort from Stiller himself. Here is a film he starred in, directed, co-produced and co-scripted, and to matters worse, his real-life wife even appears alongside him as the film's love interest, and his father plays his agent! If the film was a hit, Stiller and family are sure to rake in the cash. Fortunately for him, the film has done fairly well in the United States, and looks set to be a hit on these shores.
What about the film itself? Well...Zoolander is a purposefully silly comedy, devised solely to fit some feature-length gags around a character Ben Stiller created for the 1996 VH1 Fashion Awards. On paper, the plot of the film suggests extreme bad taste on the part of the filmmakers. Here is a film in which the plot tells of a naïve, famous male model who is brainwashed to kill the Malaysian leader due to his opposition on child labour. Malaysia's new policies would cause the shutdown of all third-world sweatshops, a big factor in the economic prosperity of the fashion industry, and so the fashion industry wants the leader dead. Given the recent world events, this sort of story is a victim of unfortunate timing. Stiller even airbrushed out skyline footage of the Wold Trade Centre in order to not cause upset (and was heavily criticised for doing so).
However, Ben Stiller is Zoolander, the winner of the best male model in the world award three years running. Zoolander is everything you expect from a male model (or at least the stereotypical one) - he's vain, naïve and incredibly stupid. He's also jealous of his main up-and-coming competitor Hansel (Owen Wilson), who has just beaten him to the best male model of the year award this year. After losing some pride, Zoolander is brainwashed by the evil fashion stylist Mugato (Will Ferrell) into killing the Malaysian leader. However, with the help of a mysterious Deep-Throat type tipster and a persistent Time magazine journalist (Christine Taylor), Zoolander might be able to inadvertently foil Mugato's plans.
Yes, the film's plot is bad taste, and yes, the film is supposed to be a dig at the male model industry, but these notions are so slight in the film that you'll regard Zoolander as more of a wacky comedy than as a satire. It certainly is too stupid to be intelligent, but that doesn't mean it's not funny, as it most definitely contains some laugh-out-loud moments. Casting Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson as the two most attractive male models in the world is a joke in itself, and the two are very capable comic leads. Will Ferrell is annoying as Mugato, and seems to be monopolising on annoying roles at the moment (See Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back). Christine Taylor is OK as Zoolander's love interest Matilda (or should that be Matil?) but she is just another in the love interest batch processing factory that produces bland female leads.
In short, the film is a slick eighty-nine minute goofball comedy that easily hits the targets on those levels. Go any deeper, or expect a Stiller comedy in the same brand as There's Something About Mary and Meet The Parents, and the film will disappoint.