Paramount Pictures

Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson hit a bad landing on the runway

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February 11, 2016 08:00 AM

As Heidi Klum might say: In fashion, one day you’re in, the next day you’re Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller), living like a hermit on a snowy mountaintop waiting for Billy Zane to drop by.

Pretty is a rough business. And so is making movies, because while the fashion satire Zoolander 2 still seems to be in on the joke, it has a tough time finding the punchline.

In the 15 years since we last saw the “ridiculously good-looking” model, tragedy has befallen. Zoolander’s squeeze, Matilda (Stiller’s real-life wife Christine Taylor), is out of the picture; he’s estranged from his catwalk compatriot Hansel (Owen Wilson); and doesn’t even know where his son, Derek Jr. (Cyrus Arnold) is after the boy was removed from his custody when Dad couldn’t figure out how to boil pasta.

Then Zane pops up at Zoolander’s door with an irresistible offer: model in a show for couturier Alexanya Atoz (Kristen Wiig) in Rome. It’s a comeback opportunity for Derek, and one, strangely to which Hansel has also been invited. All roads truly must lead to Rome, because that’s also where special agent Valentina (Penelope Cruz) of Interpol’s Global Fashion Division is conducting an investigation into the assassination of pop stars around the world. When the latest victim, Justin Bieber, appears to flash Zoolander’s signature “Blue Steel” look as a message just before his death, Valentina knows she must find the model.

It’s a promising start to a sequel that then tries to weave in even more plot points, only to end up in knots. By the time Zoolander’s nemesis, the evil Mugatu (Will Ferrell) appears, the film is desperate for laughs and some sense of, well, sense. Unfortunately, even Ferrell can’t save the day with this overworked material, as Mugatu busts out of prison, bent on destroying Derek.

In the end, Zoolander 2 plays, appropriately, like a bad fashion show filled with bizarre celebrity sightings (Why, Neil DeGrasse Tyson?); tragically hip elements that all blend together; and a path that ultimately goes nowhere.

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