Zoolander (2001)

2009-02-04 15:28
 
Zoolander

Ugly Betty has 44 000 Facebook fans. That is a lot. But Ugly Betty is a thinly disguised rip-off of The Devil Wears Prada, which has almost 300 000. Certainly, in the tiny niche of fashion comedies, there are not many contenders for 'best ever' glory. But there is a clear winner: Zoolander.
 
Ben Stiller's fashion farce not only put up a mirror (albeit an admittedly warped one) to the modelling game, it also ushered in a new era of 'what, me stupid?' comedy with its own league of stars, many of whom appear in the movie.
 
So the story goes: the fashion industry has been behind every major political assassination of the last two hundred years. Their tactics: ruthless. Their weapon: male models. Which is where Derek Zoolander comes in: athletic, dim-witted, and "really, really, ridiculously good looking". The big wigs of the clothing industry have him brainwashed to kill the Malaysian prime minister, but with the help of an 'investigotary' journalist, he just might foil their plan.
 
So far, so Mel Brooks. But if American Pie was the rebirth of the teen comedy, then Zoolander was the rebirth of people acting like idiots onscreen, in an ode to Laurel & Hardy, if you will. In fact, Derek Zoolander can be counted among the greatest idiots to ever grace the big screen.
 
"What is this?!" screams Zoolander, when shown a scale model of the educational centre he hopes to found. "A centre for ants!? It needs to be at least three times as big!" Architectural foibles aside, the man has a finesse with words few (even The Office’s Michael Scott) could match: "Rufus, Brint and Meekus were like brothers to me. And when I say brother, I don't mean like an actual brother... but I mean it like the way black people use it... which is more meaningful, I think." How's that for a eulogy? Or should I say "eugoogoly"?
 
Anchorman and Dodgeball followed, introducing their own casts of pea-brained man-children and bowling audiences over with mispronounced words and 'I don't know why, but damn that's funny' left-field punchlines. In fact, Zoolander's strain of funny is still the dominant force in comedy today. The almost-awful Step Brothers raked a hundred million in box office takings this summer. Without Ben Stiller, there would be no Will Ferrell.
 
Did Zoolander have anything meaningful to say? Well, what's there to say about fashion? Its scruples run skin-deep as it is; elitism and superficial trends are its lifeblood. Here is an industry begging to be lampooned. And while the poor world of male modelling bore the brunt of it (Derek's buff model mates die in a "freak gasoline fight accident"), Zoolander didn't spare the real fashionistas. Ferrell’s arch-villain-slash-designer Mugatu is the just the kind of scheming, bitchy trend-slut we imagine top designers to be. His 'Derelicte' line takes the “homeless, the vagrants, the crack whores” as its inspiration in a fabulous one-up on the real world of fashion. Galliano would be jealous: dumpster chic, why didn’t he think of that?

If you can forgive it for making a star out of Ferrell, Zoolander deserves its cult status. It’s a silly film. And who could ever take the fashion and beauty industry as seriously as they take themselves? Zoolander excercises the right of the pudgy-faced masses to make fun of beautiful people. Guilt-free reverse snobbery: who ain’t into that?


A bit of trivia: [from IMDB.com]

- The film has been banned in Malaysia because of the use of fictional Malaysian Prime Minister as the subject of assassination. It was originally also banned in neighbouring Singapore, but the ban has since been lifted.

- Derek Zoolander is shown on a billboard modelling for Feria hair colour. Milla Jovovich (who plays Katinka Ingabogovinanana) was a spokesmodel for Feria at the time.

- Owen Wilson's line, "Who you tryin' to get crazy with 'ese? Don't you know I'm loco?" are the opening lines to the Cypress Hill song "Insane in the Brain".

- Bret Easton Ellis, author of the 1998 book Glamorama, about a dimwitted male model who finds himself embroiled in a terrorist ring with roots in the fashion industry, sued Ben Stiller following the release of Zoolander, citing copyright infringement. The case was later settled out of court.

- Derek Zoolander's "Blue Steel" look evolved from Christine Taylor ribbing her real-life husband Stiller about the way he combs his hair in front of a mirror.

Quotes:
 
Derek’s father: "You're dead to me, boy. You're more dead to me than your dead mother. I just thank the Lord she didn't live to see her son as a mermaid."
Derek Zoolander: "Mer-man. Mer-man!"

Hansel: So I'm rappelling down Mount Vesuvius when suddenly I slip, and I start to fall. Just falling, ahh ahh, I'll never forget the terror. When suddenly I realise "Holy shit, Hansel, haven't you been smoking Peyote for six straight days, and couldn't some of this maybe be in your head?"
Zoolander: And?
Hansel: And it was. I was totally fine. I've never even been to Mount Vesuvius.
 
Zoolander: Well I guess it all started the first time I went through the second grade. I caught my reflection in a spoon while I was eating my cereal, and I remember thinking, "Wow, you're ridiculously good looking, maybe you could do that for a career."
Matilda: Do what for a career?
Zoolander: Be professionally good looking.

 
Zoolander [after a night of debauchery]: There was a moment last night, when she was sandwiched between the two Finnish dwarves and the Maori tribesmen, where I thought, "Wow, I could really spend the rest of my life with this woman".
 


Is Ben Stiller’s vapid creation the greatest idiot to ever grace the screen? Who cares? With such a really, really ridiculously good looking cast, cult status is guaranteed.

Queryful 2009/02/04 9:15 AM
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I think this movie is much more fun to remember than it is to watch.
Gary 2009/02/05 8:34 AM
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Actually, I watched it quite recently and was surprised... still funny.
Fan 2009/02/18 3:38 PM
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I have bought most of the movies Ben stiller acts in and this is a true classic. I enjoy this movie every time I watch it.
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