“Zoolander 2” opens with Justin Bieber running from masked gunmen through the streets of Rome. It’s ridiculous, intermittently funny and twice as long as it needs to be. Consider it fair warning.
Ben Stiller’s 2001 original wasn’t exactly restrained either, but there was some novelty in the way it parodied the fashion world and its vapid values. It also had a David Bowie cameo, which automatically elevates anything.
Alas, Bowie is no longer with us, and neither is the faint creativity that sustained the “Zoolander” concept.
Male models Derek Zoolander (Stiller) and Hansel (Owen Wilson) have been in self-imposed exile since tragedy struck shortly after the events of the original. An invitation from fashion maven Alexanya Atoz (an unrecognizable Kristen Wiig) brings them both to Rome for what they hope is a big comeback.
Of course, there are nefarious plots afoot, and the dimwitted duo are drawn into another confrontation with their arch-nemesis, Mugatu (Will Ferrell).
In true unnecessary-sequel fashion, Stiller and his three co-writers have added as many dopey layers as they can think of. Derek’s resentful son (Cyrus Arnold) figures into the story, as does an Interpol fashion cop (Penelope Cruz), whose job is to explain things and show off her assets. What a waste of an Oscar winner.
Other members of the huge supporting cast fare better. Wiig has fun with Alexanya’s incomprehensible accent, matched only by Kyle Mooney as her gibberish-spewing hipster protege.
The real scene-stealer, though, is Benedict Cumberbatch, as a sexually ambiguous model who goes by the name of All. He’s amusing and unsettling in equal measure, and the movie could have used more of him.
There are random celebrities all over “Zoolander 2,” most of them used very predictably (Willie Nelson smokes pot!). Kiefer Sutherland is the only one who gets much to do, and he smoothly outshines his cast mates in every scene he’s in.
In fact, the stars are the least interesting people on screen. Stiller and Wilson just go through the motions, while Ferrell strains to fill the void by being as hammy as possible.
These characters were worn out by the end of the first film — now, they’re just exhausted. It’s time to retire and let some fresh faces pose for the camera.
Read more of freelancer Loey Lockerby’s reviews at suchacritic.com.
Rated PG-13. Time: 1:42.