Friday, February 12, 2016

Zoolander 2 and Where To Invade Next

This review originally appeared on

It's been fifteen years since the original Zoolander opened, which means it's been fifteen years since the one and only time I've seen it. Honestly, it didn't leave much of an impression on me, although for years I've been wondering if the fictional model's signature "Blue Steel" pose can ultimately be blamed for the existence of the ubiquitous duck-faced Instagram selfie that everyone has in their respective feeds.
Luckily, any knowledge of the first movie is unneeded to understand the sequel, which begins with about 15 minutes of back-story and catch-up. Zoolander (Ben Stiller) and Hansel (Owen Wilson) have gone into hiding, but an international crisis centered on the deaths of several celebrities, an offer to star in a high-profile fashion show in Rome, and the possible discovery of Derek's long-lost son means a reunion for the once-hot-but-now-not supermodels.

The movie's at its funniest when it isn't centered on Derek or Hansel, and frankly could have used more of Kristen Wiig's insane designer Alexanya Atoz, who looks like Donatella Versace and Lady Gaga had a baby and raised it in a tanning bed, and her head designer Don Atari (Kyle Mooney) an insufferable hipster whose every-other-word is an insult that's really a compliment. Zoolander 2 is unquestionably stupid, but I have to admit, I laughed a lot.

Besides, any movie that opens with the violent murder of Justin Bieber can't be all bad, right?

Michael Moore dials back the vitriol for his latest documentary. Warmongering isn't the topic of this one; instead Moore "conquers" (visits) several different countries around the world, finds out how those countries have been able to succeed in ways that America hasn't, and then claims those resources (ideas) for the U.S.

Among the discoveries are free nutritional meals for schoolchildren in France; 30 days paid vacation and two-hour lunches in Italy — with no loss in production; prisons in Norway where rehabilitation is the goal, not punishment — with some of the lowest recidivism rates in the world; college education, tuition-free, for everyone — including American foreigners; and free healthcare for women in Tunisia, a country with an Islamic government.

Of course none of those countries are without their own problems, and Moore admits in the movie that he set out to "pick the flowers, not the weeds." This is a kinder, gentler Moore, and if anything, the movie is at least a lovely travelogue. But the take-away message — that so many of these successful foreign programs actually have their roots in American ideals, but we just can't get it together enough to make them work — is as infuriating as anything in any of his other movies.

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