Cinemea Culpa: Zoolander

We all make mistakes. To err is human. Occasionally we purposefully avoid a movie because of particular tastes or dislikes and in some rare cases we find out that what we passed on turns out to be a great movie after all when we finally get off our high horse and give it another chance. This new column’s sole purpose is a way of penance for all those mistakes, gaffs and blunders we stoopidly made in our youth or even in recent times for movies we should’ve seen.

Zoolander (2001)

zoolanderTwenty-Three-Year-Old Me: Back in 2001, I wasn’t a huge Ben Stiller fan. He had his ill-fated show which I never even had the chance to see until years later and the only movie I saw that he starred in was There’s Something About Mary. And Will Ferrell wasn’t the comedy heavyweight back in 2001 either. Plus just looking at Zoolander’s face was enough for me to not want to see it. I also think I was still into my artsy-fartsy movie stage still leftover from my college days so the idea of a silly comedy with Owen Wilson and Ben Stiller being male models wasn’t my cup o’ tea. Another big reason this movie dropped from my radar was this movie premiered just 2 weeks after the September 11th attacks and was pretty much forgotten about. 

What Did I Miss: Well I gotta say after watching it on Instant Netflix last night that I was pretty much wrong. Time made this movie a lot more appealing for me as I grew to like the actors more. Will Ferrell was hilarious and Ben Stiller was genius—I’d go so far to say it’s probably his best role. He’s also not playing his typical Stiller character either. I know Christine Taylor doesn’t have to work but I wish she were in more movies. 

Don’t get me wrong, this is a dumb comedy. It’s a spoof in the vein of a typical SNL sketch-made-movie. But the comparison isn’t far off from the truth since the Derek Zoolander character was created for shorts for the VH1 fashion awards. It has a slew of great cameos from the evil DJ played by Justin Theroux, Andy Dick as a butt-ugly female masseuse and one of the best cameos of all time has David Bowie playing himself as the judge of the hilarious male model walk-off scene.

The premise is fairly simple but ridiculous. The plot revolves around the brainwashing of washed up Zoolander to turn him into a cold-blooded assassin. His target is the Malaysian president who just banned all child labor in his country which puts a damper on the ruthless fashion moguls of the worlds’ plans. Most of the laughs are geared toward how stupid and naive Zoolander is. He’s more clueless than Ernest P. Worell and Brick Tamland combined. The problem with such a dim-witted character is that they have to know just enough to make due in life for some scenes but in other scenes they’re completely dumb. Case in point, in one scene he spells day like D-A-I-Y-E but in  another scene he compares someone to Walter Cronkite. Would someone who can’t spell a simple word like day even know or care who Cronkite is? Probably not but whatever; it’s a silly comedy.


But it’s completely irreverent too but not in a nasty way. Models themselves are just ripe for scorn and ridicule. Especially male models. Do I know any male models? I used to and this movie is of course an exaggerated version of them. It also treads very lightly on the stereotype that male models are considered somewhat homosexual. Besides the vanity, flamboyancy and outrageous clothing, Zoolander also lives with 3 other male models. In one scene they drive in a Jeep singing along to Wham’s “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” and spraying each other with windshield-washing fluid and gasoline. Speaking of the music, the soundtrack is great but also harkens to the homosexuality with acts like Wham and Frankie Goes to Hollywood (both groups with gay singers). The movie also pokes fun of the child labor epidemic in the world, especially in southeast Asia. A very serious issue but the film makes light of it for laughs. But that’s the point of satire. It also doesn’t make the mistake of a ham-fisted and out-of-place moral message either. 


I can compare this film also to the Austin Powers films. Sophomoric spoofs with dashes of silly action and implausible sight gags. Both Austin Powers and Derek Zoolander are confident and clueless and also fish-out-their-water. Both are fine comedies but with such flimsy premises they don’t always stand the test of time. Wherein, Ghostbusters or Caddyshack seem timeless and regarded as pinnacles of film comedy, Austin Powers and Zoolander are something I may watch only a few times on late night cable. They are a step up to most Adam Sandler movies but not as good as most Will Ferrell movies. I was still entertained by Zoolander and laughed a lot actually but it’s no comedy classic. I wish I saw it with my friends back when it was fresh but I’m glad I gave it a shot now.

Notable Scenes:


15 thoughts on “Cinemea Culpa: Zoolander

  1. I like this feature! Think we all have movies like this. Zoolander, though? Hmm… I’ve never watched it either as I really don’t like anyone in it. Glad you enjoyed it! 🙂 Not sure I’m convinced…


  2. Pingback: Shake the Scene: Grosse Pointe Blank | Hard Ticket to Home Video

Got something to say?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s