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Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller)
and Matilda Jeffries (Christine Taylor)

Zoolander (2001) starstar

Reviewed 2001-06-07
: Who pissed in Roger Ebert's coffee? I'm sorry, but maybe the worthy successor to Pauline Kael wasn't ready, so soon after 9/11/01, to laugh his ass off, but I thought Zoolander was Second Lookfunny! Ebert wrote his review last year when the film was released and we were all reeling from shock. We're all entitled to take offense, but at this remove it seems an over-reaction. The story of a bone-headed male model (director Ben Stiller) brainwashed to kill the Prime Minister of Malaysia (Woodrow Asai) to prevent him from imposing laws against the child labor on which the fashion industry thrives, may be a silly, un-PC plot. But that's really incidental to the wicked satire of the modeling profession and the shallowness of the fashion industry. After all, there has to be more to life than being really, really good-looking.

Ben Stiller plays Derek Zoolander, three-time male model of the year, who loses out to newcomer Hansel (played by the annoying Owen Wilson). Zoolander is trashed by Time journalist Matilda Jeffries (Stiller's wife, Christine Taylor, who twice reprised the Marcia Brady role), but she eventually comes to like him. She is featured in what must be the first G-rated orgy scene in history! In supporting roles are Jerry Stiller (his father), Zoolander's acerbic manager who runs the Balls modeling agency, Ann Meara (his mother) as a protester, Jon Voight playing his stansoffish coal-miner father, and David Duchovny as conspiracy theorist and hand model J.P. Prewitt (what a switch from conspiracy theorist Fox Mulder!). The villain behind the plot is an over-the-top funny Will Ferrell as megalomaniacal Jacob Mugatu (I'm told the name comes from a Star Trek beast) a fashion entrepreneur who wants to keep the kids safe in the factories. He is ably assisted by an evil fashion dominatrix, the talented but underutilized Milla Jovovich as Katinka Ingabogovinanana. (I can't pronounce it, either.)

This film was fun in a kind of stupid way, so I'd have to call it a guilty pleasure. Ben Stiller holds together a fabric of inanity with his witless, witty charm as the intellectually insufficient title character. Taylor is pleasant to look at but leaves no lasting impression. Owen Wilson is still as annoying as I found him in Shanghai Noon. As for the others, aside from Ferrell, I'd say Zoolander is worth a look at least for the cameos, some uncredited: Winona Ryder, a bald Billy Zane, Donald Trump, Christian Slater, Cuba Gooding Jr, Tommy Hilfiger, Natalie Portman, Fabio, David Bowie, Garry Shandling, Stephen Dorff, Sandra Bernhard, Claudia Schiffer, Lukas Haas, and Karl Lagerfeld, among others. As for Ebert's objections? Phooey!

Agree? Disagree? Tell me!

Ronald Bruce Meyer is a freelance reviewer.