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ZOOLANDER

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Will Ferrell, Christine Taylor, Jerry Stiller, Milla Jovovich, Jon Voight
Director: Ben Stiller
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround, French Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: Paramount
Features: See Review
Length: 89 Minutes
Release Date: March 12, 2002

“Did you ever stop to think that maybe there’s more to life than being really, really, really, really ridiculously good looking? I mean, maybe we should do something more meaningful with our lives…like helping people.”

“Uh, Derek, what people?”

“I don’t know, people who NEED HELP.”

Film ***

The big story surrounding the theatrical release of Zoolander was the fact that it was the only comedy to be released since the tragic events of 9/11, and its simple-minded humor was just what the country needed in terms of escapist fare. This notion may have been questioned by some, but what I saw was exactly what trailers had promised me, which was a gloriously stupid movie about a gloriously stupid individual, who just happens to be really, really, really, really good looking. I mean stupid in a good way, and who better than to create a purposefully simple minded enterprise than Ben Stiller, one of our top comedic geniuses of the movies today.

Zoolander could easily be considered Stiller’s big pet project, but at the same time, you get a feeling that he had a ball of a time making it. Stiller stars in the title role, and he also directed, co-wrote, and co-produced it, in addition to casting most of his family in the movie. What is most surprising about the quality level of Zoolander is the notion that it is based solely on a skit that Ben Stiller created at the first VH1 Fashion Awards in 1996.

The movie is an outlandish spoof of the self-absorbed world of male models. The movie opens with three- time VH1 Male Model of the Year, Derek Zoolander (Stiller), making a fool of himself at the current award ceremony, when he approaches to accept his supposed forth-consecutive award, when in fact it is merited to his top modeling rival, Hansel (Owen Wilson). Following this incident, as well as that of his three feminine roommate buddies getting killed in a freak gasoline fighting accident, Derek decides to retire from the modeling world and go back home to find his roots. Home is a coal mining town, where his stern father (Jon Voight) wants nothing to do with him.

Soon Derek is called back into the modeling world, but not for any upcoming photo shoots. Top fashion mogul, Mugatu (Will Ferrell) has devised a sinister plot to brainwash Derek into assassinating the Prime Minister of Malaysia at an upcoming fashion event. How will the brainwash take effect, you ask? Simple, through listening endlessly to the memorable 80s hit, “Relax” by Frankie Goes to Hollywood. Mugatu, along with most of the industry want the Prime Minister dead because he supports laws limiting child labor, which would run Mugatu’s empire right into the ground. What follows is Derek’s surprise partnering with Hansel as the two, along with an uptight investigative journalist, played by Christine Taylor (Mrs. Stiller), team up to overthrow Mugatu’s plans.

A word of extreme warning: this will most likely turn off those seeking pure intelligence. By comparison, Zoolander makes the characters’ antics in Dumb and Dumber and Kingpin combined look like the work of Nobel Prize Winners. However, those in search of an anything-for-a-laugh kind of humor are in terrific shape, much like Zoolander’s modeling physique. The film is also loaded with cameos from the likes of the following; Lenny Kravitz, Gwen (please marry me) Stefani, Vince Vaughn, Billy Zane, David Bowie, David Duchovny, Stephen Dorff, Fred Durst, and many more that I’ll leave you to discover.

In the realm of outlandish stupidity, which I am always welcome to as long as it’s done right, Zoolander hits a most high mark.

Video ****

The colorful world of Zoolander, and I mean that in both senses of the word, is brought to life in this glamorous looking presentation. The anamorphic transfer is in pure Paramount form, with image quality turning up perfection in scene after scene, in both light and darkly lit sequences. For a movie set in the modeling underworld, there are sure to be a huge array of colorful clothes, and the colors of the costumes in the movie alone earn this transfer its four stars. Yet another terrific looking achievement from Paramount.

Audio ***1/2

The sound of Zoolander is a lot more elaborate than that of most comedies, and thanks to that added feature, Paramount has applied a most impressive 5.1 audio mix to this presentation. Both front and rear stages pick up mostly well, especially in crowded scenes, which is mostly frequent. The movie is also frequent with a lively soundtrack, which includes the aforementioned “Relax”, as well as Wham’s “Wake Me Up (Before You Go-Go)”, Michael Jackson’s “Beat It”, and the unforgettable classic “Rockit” by Herbie Hancock, all of which are heard in top dynamic quality.

Features ****

Following in the footsteps of such recent releases as Rat Race, Beverly Hills Cop, and Tomb Raider, Paramount continues their winning stride of loaded discs with this new entry in their Special Collector’s Edition series.

First off, I must applaud this disc for the wildly imaginative use of menu screens, which is helped by Zoolander’s vocal introduction to what he mispronounces as “The Exciting World of DeeVid”, he then goes through a stupefyingly funny explanation of your four basic menu options, Play, Scene Selections, Special Features, and Set Up, all of which are a hoot.

Included on the disc is a humorous commentary by Ben Stiller, along with co-writers Drake Sather and John Hamburg, 5 Deleted Scenes and 5 Extended scenes, both of which include commentary by Stiller, a length Gag Reel, Two original Zoolander skits from the VH1 Fashion Awards, a music video for The Wiseguys’ song “Start the Commotion” (one of my personal favorite songs of recent memory), promotional spots, photo galleries, and an alternate end title sequence.

Summary:

Zoolander is a hoot of a movie that can only be enjoyed if not taken seriously whatsoever. This is a must see for fans of Stiller, as well as those seeking some outrageous laughs.