Here is another entry from the golden age of Ben Stiller films: Zoolander (2001). I have to confess to not being excited for this one when it came out. I recall seeing previews for it in the theaters and thinking, what in the world. . . ? It was not until well after it came out that finally got around to parking myself in front of a television to take a look at it. I may have chuckled at a few parts, such as the ridiculous concept of the main protagonist, legendary male model Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller), and his friends having a gasoline fight. Outside of that, I endured it. It is one of those movies a lot of people look back on and think of how much they once enjoyed it. I just smile and nod my head, and pray that they do not want to remove it from my shoulders when I tell them I do not like it.
Get ready for absurd with Zoolander. We get it right off the bat when celebrated fashion designer Jacobim Mugatu (Will Ferrell) is called to a secret meeting of leaders of the clothing industry. They are upset that the prime minister of Malaysia is vowing to make it more difficult for companies to produce cheap clothing in his country. Thus, they want Mugatu to take care of the situation. In addition to being a designer, he has a set of skills that allow him to brainwash people into doing his bidding. It takes weak willed individuals, though, to become one of his sleeper agents. He finds such a person in Derek, who inadvertently accepts an award for best male model of the year at a ceremony even though his name had not been called. It had actually been meant for his up-and-coming rival, Hansel MacDonald (Owen Wilson). If this is not enough to convince you of Derek’s ineptitude, shortly thereafter is the aforementioned gasoline fight, which ends with the deaths of all his friends, though he is spared. Between this and Hansel’s rising stardom, Derek decides he has had enough of modeling and decides to retire. He tells this to his agent, Maury Ballstein (Jerry Stiller), who tries to convince his client to stay by talking about an offer from Mugatu. Instead, Derek returns to the roots of his coal mining family, which is kind of funny. Still, even his father, Larry Zoolander (Jon Voight), cannot accept back his son, particularly when Larry sees one of Derek’s commercials. Hence, Maury is able to convince Derek to take Mugatu’s offer. To sweeten the deal, Mugatu unveils a model of the planned Derek Zoolander Center for Kids who Can’t Read Good. This is laugh number two for me, particularly when Derek does not realize that it is only a mock up and that the real thing would be bigger. It is during this visit, too, that Derek gets the planned brainwashing, which is the real reason for Mugatu bringing in the fallen model, doing so under the pretenses of a spa day. This is when plucky Time magazine reporter Matilda Jeffries (Christine Taylor) catches up with Derek. Previously, she had written a piece about him that also fed into the notion that he is witless. Despite it being the truth, she feels bad about it. As such, she begins digging into Mugatu and the reasons for why he would want to bring on somebody like Derek at this point in his career. What she finds is suspicious. However, when she tries to present her evidence to Derek at the spa, he dismisses her. Shortly thereafter, the brainwashing occurs. He is told that he must kill the prime minister of Malaysia. The politician will be at the unveiling of Mugatu’s new line, Derelicte, and the song that will trigger Derek is “Relax” by Frankie Goes to Hollywood. At a party later on, Derek once more brushes off Matilda. What he does give in to is a runway contest with Hansel, and loses in humbling fashion. In defeat, Derek accepts a ride home from Matilda. Yet, instead of going home, they drive to a cemetery where she has been tipped off about an informant with knowledge about Mugatu. The contact is recognized by Derek as J. P. Prewett (David Duchovny), famous hand model. According to Prewett, all the most famous assassinations in history have been carried out by models. He also confirms a theory Matilda had been working on connecting the early deaths of many other males in the industry before the age of thirty to Mugatu. Thinking they need a place to lay low, Matilda takes them to the one place she thinks they will not be found: Hansel’s apartment. Things go even more off the rails here, morally speaking, as an orgy takes place. And somehow, after it, Derek insists that he has feelings for Matilda. Whatever it is that goes on, Hansel also admits that Derek had been a huge inspiration for him. So, now they are friends. And what do friends do for one another than help breaking into the computer of an evil, fashion industry mastermind to get the proof Matilda needs for shedding light on Mugatu’s illegal activities. Yet, because neither Derek or Hansel can figure out how to operate the machine, they end up taking the whole thing. Derek, meanwhile, heads to the fashion show to confront Maury about the agent’s role in the scandal. Unfortunately, this gets him a little too close to the runway, and “Relax” begins playing. Luckily, Hansel saves Derek by taking out the DJ. Unluckily, he drops the computer to the ground believing the files needed to prove Mugatu’s guilt will tumble out of it . . . you know, because he does not know how computers work. Anyway, this is when Maury finally has a change of heart, and steps forward with the needed evidence. A year later, and Derek, along with his new family, are finally opening the silly school.
What does a Catholic review say about Zoolander? There is drugs and sex. Actually, sex is highly encouraged in the Church, though obviously between a man and woman married to one another. What I can speculate on is that perhaps this film is part of why we stopped liking movies about idiots. Actually, idiots can be funny, but this one seems to rely on stereotypes. The cliché here, of course, is that male models are not the brightest. At least, perhaps, they were not going after the female variety. Either way, fools in the Catholic Church have a long standing. The Bible talks of God’s foolishness being wiser than man’s wisdom. That should put our smarts into perspective. There have been many saints who have been taken as ignorant only to go on to do great things for God. One who comes to mind is St. Bernadette Soubirous. She is the French girl to whom Our Lady appeared in Lourdes. No one wanted to believe someone like her could receive such an honor until the miracles began happening. You, too, would not believe some of the things that happen in this film. None of it is any good, really, but what I am trying to say here is that you should never completely dismiss an idiot.
Zoolander is one of those movies that so many people have seen, and would probably still tell you they like it. Yet, I do not see it talked about much anymore. I think this can be demonstrated by the fact that its 2015 sequel was universally panned. As such, I would warn you away from the first one, too.