Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
We may earn a commission from links on this page


We may earn a commission from links on this page.

Ben Stiller's career has gone through three distinct phases. First, he was the pop-culture-savvy skit-comedy prodigy behind The Ben Stiller Show. Next, he was the up-and-coming director of Reality Bites and The Cable Guy, two of the most conspicuously overhyped (and under-performing) films of the '90s. Most recently, Stiller served as the bankable star of Meet The Parents and There's Something About Mary. Those three phases come together for the first time with disappointing results in Zoolander, a high-concept action-comedy directed and co-written (with Drake Sather and John Hamburg, script doctor of Meet The Parents) by Stiller and based on a character he created for the VH1 Fashion Awards. Not coincidentally VH1's maiden foray into film, Zoolander casts Stiller as the world's most successful male model, a man whose intelligence seems to function in inverse proportion to the beauty and delicacy of his bone structure. Disgraced publicly following a VH1 Fashion Awards-related blunder, Stiller becomes the victim of a sinister brainwashing plot involving eccentric designer Will Ferrell, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, and a plot to assassinate the president of Malaysia. Combining an abundance of dumb-model jokes with enough glib, kitschy pop-culture references to stock several Charlie's Angels sequels, Zoolander sets its hazy satirical sights on what may be pop culture's biggest, fattest target—and still only connects sporadically. As the film's star, director, co-producer, and co-writer, Stiller deserves the lion's share of the blame, both for his surprisingly shrill, one-note turn as the titular dullard, and for the film's sloppy, self-indulgent script and meandering pace. As Stiller's beatific rival-turned-ally, the always-impressive Owen Wilson provides Zoolander with what little comic spark it possesses, although even Wilson can't redeem a satire too timid to take all but the safest swipes at the fashion industry and celebrity culture. As Robert Altman's famously reviled Ready To Wear and the careers of Joan and Melissa Rivers amply illustrate, fashion and comedy seldom make for happy bedfellows. While it has its moments, Zoolander is no exception.