Movie Review: “Zoolander 2”

Starring
Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Penelope Cruz, Will Ferrell, Kristen Wiig
Director
Ben Stiller

Comedy sequels are tough. One of the few good recent examples, “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues,” managed to keep the characters fresh, which is the key to a successful comedy sequel. But 15 years after the first “Zoolander,” is there still an appetite for these lovably dumb male models? And are they still even lovably dumb? In this sequel, once again directed by Ben Stiller, they are not.

The original film was a silly comedy that played on the conventions of conspiracy thrillers like “The Manchurian Candidate,” and it earned its status as a cult classic. “Zoolander” has aged well and isn’t going away anytime soon, but it’s unlikely that “Zoolander 2” will grow on audiences in the same way.

The sequel continues to play with the trappings of a conspiracy thriller. In the opening minutes, Justin Bieber is assassinated, setting up a “Da Vinci Code”-esque adventure that forces Derek (Stiller) and Hansel (Owen Wilson) to come out of retirement. The two went through a traumatic experience together shortly after the events of the first film. They haven’t spoken since the accident, but that all changes when they’re invited by incomprehensible fashion god Alexanya Atoz (Kristen Wiig) to participate in one of her shows. Once they get to the show, however, they’re treated like jokes. They are no longer the men they used to be, and all Derek wants is to prove to Child Services that he’s fit to raise his son.

The opening setpiece involving Bieber on the run is well done, and further proof of Stiller’s skills as a director. Few comedic directors make movies as cinematic as Stiller. The laughs aren’t always there, as is the case with “Zoolander 2,” but looking at earlier films like “The Cable Guy” and “Tropic Thunder,” he’s capable of matching the styles of the movies he’s emulating and poking fun at. At times, “Zoolander 2” is as flashy as the glossy mysteries it’s riffing on.

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Movie Review: “The Internship”

Starring
Vince Vaughn, Owen Wilson, Rose Byrne, Max Minghella, Aasif Mandvi
Director
Shawn Levy

It’s been nearly a decade since Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson first teamed up for the R-rated comedy “Wedding Crashers,” and moviegoers have been clamoring for the pair to do another film together ever since. The reunion may have taken a little longer than expected, but it’s nice to see that they didn’t go the easy route with a “Wedding Crashers” sequel, even if their new movie falls well short of recapturing that same spark. “The Internship” isn’t nearly as bad as its trailers led me to believe, but while Vaughn and Wilson don’t waste any time in renewing their great onscreen chemistry, it’s still not very funny.

Billy McMahon (Vaughn) and Nick Campbell (Wilson) have built successful careers as salesmen, but when their company closes due to the economic crunch, they suddenly find themselves without a job and no real marketable skills to speak of. Analog dinosaurs living in a digital world, their futures look bleak – that is, until Billy gets the idea to apply for a summer internship program at Google. Though they clearly lack the general computer knowledge of most candidates, the company decides to take a chance on the two guys anyway. Placed into a group of fellow outcasts with poor social skills, Billy and Nick are quickly discounted as a couple of inept goofballs that are more trouble than they’re worth. But what they lack in technological savvy, they make up for in life experience, and that proves just as valuable when they compete in a series of team challenges for the chance to earn a job at the tech giant.

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Hidden Netflix Gems: Bottle Rocket

This week’s Hidden Netflix Gem: “Bottle Rocket” (1996)

Before Wes Anderson was a household name (at least among movie buffs), before receiving Oscar nominations for The Royal Tenenbaums, Fantastic Mr. Fox, and Moonrise Kingdom, before The Darjeeling Limited, Rushmore, and The Life Aquatic, yes, before all of that, he and Owen Wilson co-wrote the screenplay for Bottle Rocket. It was based on a short film of the same name they’d made in 1992 and released in 1994. Bottle Rocket was Anderson’s directorial debut and marked the first appearances of Luke and Owen Wilson, as well as their lesser known older brother, AndrewLeslie Mann, now famous for her many roles in husband Judd Apatow’s films, even had a small part, though it was eventually left on the cutting room floor.

Anderson’s first film is an interesting look back at the development of filmmaker’s now signature style: the methodical cinematography, with its bright coloring and compulsive need to center-frame the actors, along with humor so dry you’d better pack a canteen. Though a commercial failure, Bottle Rocket served as a launching pad for the careers of all those names above, so easily recognized here in 2013. But the film is worth a watch on its own merits, even for those who aren’t intrigued by the idea of taking a look at the early work of a couple of future A-listers. Thanks to Anderson’s burgeoning style and its innocent, humorous characters, Bottle Rocket has been certified fresh and holds an 80 percent rating on the TomatoMeter. If that’s not enough to sway you, Martin Scorsese named it his seventh favorite movie of the 1990’s. Yes, that Martin Scorsese.

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