Arts & Life, Theatre

Navigating Netflix: Zoolander

He was a man with a simple dream, to parlay his successful modelling career into the creation of the “The Derek Zoolander Center for Kids Who Can’t Read Good and Wanna Learn to Do Other Stuff Good Too.” Unfortunately, his best laid plans were ruined by an unexpected exit from the world of high fashion, a disastrous foray into the world of coal mining, and the nefarious plot of a clandestine group within the fashion industry.

This is the story of Derek Zoolander.

Realistically, Ben Stiller has made a lot of terrible movies in his career but Zoolander is a good one. This skewering of high fashion and the world of modelling is both incisive and affectionate. It is as much a parody of the generalities of the industry’s reputation as it is a skewering of very specific participants in it. Will Ferrell plays designer Mugatu whose Derelicte line of clothes is inspired by the homeless and crack whores. It’s supposedly based on a line released in 2000 by designer John Galliano that used the clothes worn by the destitute as inspiration.

While Zoolander could be content to simply mock the fashion industry for its foibles, and it easily could, it takes thing a step further by rolling in an international plot to murder the Prime Minister of Malaysia. Mugatu plans to brainwash Zoolander to assassinate the Prime Minister in order to preserve the fashion industry’s use of cheap child labour in Malaysia. Naturally, this spirals into a much bigger plot as revealed by David Duchovny in the role of a notorious but reclusive hand model.

Aspects of this story are reputedly quite similar to the novel Glamorama by Brian Easton Ellis. I say “reputedly” because I have not personally read Glamorama, though its synopsis is more than a little reminiscent of Zoolander. In Glamorama, there’s a terrorist conspiracy buried deep within the international fashion industry and his main character, dim male model, is its pawn. Glamorama came out in 1998 and Zoolander in 2001, so there is a distinct possibility that one drew “inspiration” from the other.

Ben Stiller plays the roving half-wit model to perfection and Owen Wilson is similarly epic as his nemesis. Although their Dumb and Dumber levels of stupidity get tiresome at times, they are still endearing enough in their roles to soldier on. And if you do bore of their ridiculousness, it’s hard to get tired of Blue Steel, Zoolander’s trademark look. It never fails to electrify the watcher.

And if that isn’t enough, this movie is filled with a list cameos by musicians, models, and actors too long to mention by name. I will say that David Bowie is a good choice to judge the walk off between Stiller and Wilson.

Opinions vary on this movie greatly. Some absolutely love it and maintain it’s one of the funniest films ever made. Others despise it, thoroughly annoyed by the idiotic antics of the film’s main actors. Whether you end up loving or hating Zoolander, it does, if nothing else, have at least one pearl of wisdom to offer the world…

Always listen to you friend Billy Zane. He’s a cool dude.