Yes, don’t kid yourself, you’ve seen this movie before.

In the worst tradition of Hollywood sequels, really, really, really, ridiculously good-looking bros Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson re-did their cult favourite 15 years later, moved the action to Rome and slapped a 2 on the end in the hope you won’t notice.

The film opens on its highest note – Justin Bieber, taking enormous joy in self-parody, chased by an assassin in an extended and oh so funny death sequence. From there, the film devolves into a litter of homages to its far superior precursor. Cherished stars come and go, blue steel contributes more than its fair share and now iconic jokes from the first-film don’t pack quite the same punch the second time around. Attempts to revisit the age of once-obscure frappuccinos and ill-advised car rides range from tired to cringe-worthy.

Worse still, the fashion satire that made Zoolander instantly recognizable is markedly absent from the sequel. Yes, Derek and Hansel crash launch parties, selfies are mocked at length and cameos, including a highly publicized appearance from Benedict Cumberbatch, go some way to distinguish the film from the original, but it’s not as fun when everyone’s in on the joke.

There’s a reason Trey Parker and Matt Stone never let Alec Baldwin record the voice for his marionette in Team America: World Police. When you’re satirizing someone or something it pays to have a little distance, and if a slew of fashion icons and models literally reveal themselves as not only in on the joke but an integral part of it, the film loses its edge. What was once cutting satire turns into a platform for the very thing you’re trying to skewer, and if you can’t even laugh at gags at the expense of superficial, self-obsessed megalomaniacs then there’s not much left to enjoy.

The conveyer-belt of celebrity cameos is at first a highlight and then neither original nor endearing, with heavyweights like John Malkovich and Kiefer Sutherland noticeably underutilized. A central role for Penelope Cruz is enjoyable yet unimaginative, while a Da Vinci Code style subplot, one of the film’s better innovations, will for the keen eye result in a great payoff as secrets about Hansel’s past are revealed.

Absent any lines or memorable moments comparable to the first film, barring one glorious act of stupidity in the film’s penultimate moments, despite a few redeeming features those hoping for anything like the original will have to be content with passably adequate fan service.

Zoolander 2 is in cinemas now

Glen Falkenstein

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