Two decades ago there was a sort of renegade comedy renaissance brought upon by the infamous “Frat Pack”, a group of seven or so comedians who took the world by storm with their prime-time sophomoric pictures that cultivated, captivated, and perpetuated audiences everywhere. Mainly non-Saturday Night Live alumni (outside of Will Ferrell), the much-obliged Frat Pack included comedy legends Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Luke Wilson, his brother Owen, and Steve Carrel. The incredibly funny Frat Pack crew peaked in 2003-2005 releasing what some would consider the fantastic four of comedy films for the decade, with ‘Old School’, ‘Anchorman’, ‘Dodgeball’ and the legendary final act, ‘Wedding Crashers’. The films enchanted audiences with glamour, outlandishness, uncanny antics and a knack for the inane. At the start of this vital era of comedy greatness stood one Frat Pack wunderkind picture that did everything right and nothing hurt. That film was ‘Zoolander’.
The tale of two spectacular rival male models, Derek Zoolander (Stiller) and Hansel (Owen Wilson), who must join forces to defeat the evil fashion lord Jacobim Mugatu’s (Ferrell) plot to kill the Malaysian Prime Minister for the purpose of keeping child labor laws in the country unregulated. Uncovering the mystery of Mugatu’s secret plot, dodging all the tricks and trances Mugatu throws their way, and overcoming their general incompetence, the two male models bond in their endeavor to defeat evil and conquer the male modeling world one ultimate look at a time. Add in some errant gasoline-fight tragedy, the sage guidance of a forgotten hand model, and the communication of the world’s smallest phone, and we’ve got ourselves a comedy behemoth.
‘Zoolander’ was not only great for its context, but also for being so irrationally out of the box. A comedy revolving around the indignant and shallow frolics of male models had been untouched before Stiller & Co. broached the subject, so it was highly original. It also mimicked all the contemporary antics of the general populace including phenomenal cameos by American Presidential candidate Donald Trump, the late great David Bowie, the lusciously high class Paris Hilton et al. It played on current trends such as the continuous shrinking of the modern day cell phone, the frivolity of a celebrity-obsessed generation who cared only about image, and the ridiculousness of celebrities who created absurd charities, such as “The Derek Zoolander Center for Kids Who Can’t Read Good and Who Wanna Learn to Do Other Stuff Good Too”.
This is a comedy film ripe with gambits that not only work, but that kill. From “Blue Steel” to “Magnum”, Derek Zoolander’s famous looks steal the show as he rises to superstardom in the modelling world. Hansel and Zoolander learn to accept their mutual lover’s ability to read minds, as well as her bulimia. And not to be forgotten, the heroic runway-off between Zoolander and Hansel. It’s all the puerile refuse mashed into a beautiful serving dish for thanksgiving dinner; one replete with all the fixings.
A genuine satire, ‘Zoolander’ became the gateway for the “Frat Pack”, taking them from a myriad of dorm-room, cult classics to a film which would ultimately see the Frat Pack’s rise into comedy lords, with a number of the highest grossing comedy films of all time to follow. Yet, the best may actually be the original, like fine wine and expensive cheese, ‘Zoolander’ only seems to get better with age.
Director: Ben Stiller
Starring: Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Christine Taylor, Will Ferrell