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Apocalypse Now: Redux

There are 10 reasons not to miss Apocalypse Now: Redux at the theater —Richard Sharp (review...)

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Zoolander 2 struts across the screen in an explosion of unbridled creativity and style.

The Look

Hansel and Zoolander arrive in style.
Hansel and Zoolander arrive in style.

It’s hard to argue with a movie that starts with the heartless, cold-blooded murder of Justin Bieber. A bazillion bullets riddle Bieber’s convulsing body. He drops to the ground... And pulls out his smartphone for one last selfie, which — with his final intake of air — he tastefully filters on Instagram. He’s got the look. Peace out.

His is the latest in a string of pop and rock star obliterations. Bruce Springsteen’s been capped; Madonna’s struck her final pose. Other headliners have also fallen victim, and all have sent one last selfie with that same, unmistakable and remarkable look.

The world is in dire straits (for reals, not the rock band).

What could be behind this insane plot to rob the world of ridiculously beautiful and talented — but most importantly ridiculously beautiful — people? In that final look captured forever in one last selfie is a code that’ll help unlock a nefarious plot involving fashion, mayhem and the Chosen One.

Yeah. A lot of stupidity is afoot in Zoolander 2. But it takes a heckuva lot of smarts — and ambition — to be this stupid.

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Comedy is an acquired taste. Writer/director Ben Stiller is somewhat in the same ranks as David Letterman; their self-effacing blend of humor and sophisticated goofiness is perhaps a little divisive and off-putting for some. And, like the Coen Brothers, Stiller’s movies age well and gather greater appreciation over time. Tropic Thunder? The original Zoolander? Dodgeball? Come on now! They’re classics of politically incorrect, goofball humor.

But even Stiller’s sweet, fresh take on The Secret Life of Walter Mitty met with an unduly underwhelming response in theatres.

Now, 15 years after Zoolander first strut his stuff on movie screens, he’s back. The ensuing years have not been kind to the master of the catwalk. His wife was killed when the Derek Zoolander Center for Kids Who Can’t Read Good collapsed thanks to... uh... incredibly inferior construction quality. That same disaster left Zoolander’s ridiculously good-looking pal Hansel (Owen Wilson) severely disfigured (well, at least by ultra super-duper model standards).

And Derek lost custody of his son after a remarkably unfortunate spaghetti incident.

With that, Derek went into seclusion in the harsh, forever-wintry environment of northern New Jersey. In seclusion, that is, until Zoolander’s teased with the possibility of a comeback and the return of his son. And those selfies brought Interpol calling for Derek’s... um... remarkable deductive powers.

Star Power

It has to be a testament to the kind of goodwill Ben Stiller generates that such a wide-ranging mass of talent is game to play along with the gags.

Penelope Cruz is all-in as an ultra-hot member of Interpol’s fashion police. (As Hansel so wisely notes, “She’s hot. I trust her.”) Kristen Wiig is unrecognizable as the thick-accented Alexanya Atoz. Will Ferrell and Milla Jovovich reprise their e-vil roles from Zoolander.

The collection of cameos here is awesome. Staggering, actually.

From the media, there’s Jane Pauley, Christiane Amanpour, Katie Couric, Soledad O’Brien, and Matt Lauer. From fashion, there’s Marc Jacobs, Tommy Hilfiger, Anna Wintour, Valentino Garavani and Alexander Wang. From Tinseltown, there’s Kiefer Sutherland, Billy Zane, Benedict Cumberbatch, John Malkovich, Susan Sarandon and Macaulay Culkin. From all things science, there’s Neil deGrasse Tyson. From music, there’s the selfie-mugging of Madonna and the Boss, plus appearances by Katy Perry, Willie Nelson, M.C. Hammer and Ariana Grande. And there’s a nice-sized role for Gordon Sumner (Sting!).

And that list isn’t even all-inclusive.

There is a unique sense of joy in watching Stiller’s brand of zany unfold and that sense is at an all-time high with Zoolander 2. Sure, there’ll be plenty of people who’ll walk away from Zoolander 2 perplexed and with a scowl. But a much better look for Zoolander’s fandom doesn’t have a flashy name like Magnum or Blue Steel. It’s the simple wearing of an ear-to-ear smile.