The last of the Laemmle’s “April Fools” films was the most recent and also probably the weakest: Ben Stiller’s Zoolander. (The previous films were The Jerk (1979), Raising Arizona and Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.) Stiller directed, starred in, and co-wrote this movie about a dumb but affable male model who becomes the lynchpin in a plan to assassinate the Malaysian Prime Minister.
The original cut was 90 minutes, but this showing ran at least 15 minutes longer, and contained a lot more expository material which made things a bit more “logical” but also (it seemed to me) a bit less tight and funny. I can’t find any evidence of an “extended cut” (although there’s a lot of deleted material out there) so it’s possible I’m wrong about this and it just felt longer this time.
One of the things that I think was expanded was Will Ferrell’s “brainwashing” video, where he explains that bad people want to keep children in third world countries from having jobs. It’s a funny bit. It’s a little less funny when you realize that, without their jobs, children in those countries tend to be sold into sex slavery, but why let facts get in the way of a good gag/political message, right?
This, probably, is part of the reason Zoolander ages less well than the others: It has a message.
Owen Wilson is sort of a weak point, too. Not because he’s not enjoyable to watch, but because he’s the same character in every film. Even that’s not a problem per se—Wilson’s laid back, super groovy modern dude is a fun part of Wedding Crashers, Shanghai Noon and it almost saves Midnight In Paris. But while it’s a kind of spacey archetype, it’s not really a dumb one, which makes some of the “dumb gags” he has to do seem incongruous. (“The files are in the computer!”)
Nonetheless, it’s still funny. Will Ferrell is actually the straight man, here, and he’s pretty good at it. I miss him being funny.
The kids liked it. Not sure it’ll hold up another 20 years, though.