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There is only one name in male modeling-ZOOLANDER. But the world's most famous model isn't immune to aging. He's nearing 30, and that's ancient. When Hansel, an up-and-comer, beats him at an awards ceremony, he starts to wonder- what if there's more to life than being really, really good looking?
The film has been banned in Malaysia because of the use of fictional Malaysian Prime Minister as the subject of assassination. It was originally also banned in neighboring Singapore, but the ban has since been lifted.
I wasn't like every other kid, you know, who dreams about being an astronaut, I was always more interested in what bark was made out of on a tree. Richard Gere's a real hero of mine. Sting. Sting would be another person who's a hero. The music he's created over the years, I don't really listen to it, but the fact that he's making it, I respect that. I care desperately about what I do. Do I know what product I'm selling? No. Do I know what I'm doing today? No. But I'm here, and I'm gonna give it my best shot.
At times a parody of the modelling world, at others a deep-rooted conspiracy-laden thriller, and always a funny movie, Zoolander is directed by its star, Ben Stiller, and features a star-studded cast, ridiculous amounts of celebrity cameos, and a glossy, well-lit style reminiscent of the models it attempts to parody.
Hair kind of like this. Wonder what that could mean?
As Malaysia celebrates the election of a new Prime Minister, one who looks to bring the country into the modern era, a group meets to discuss the ramifications of this event on the fashion world. Shadows obscure their faces as they mention the Prime Minister and his desire to bring fair wages to the country and end child labor. Obviously, this cannot stand, and they order a man with ridiculous hair to find a model to kill him at a fashion show in two weeks. But it has to be someone really, really stupid for them to brainwash him that quickly... But who? Who could be so astoundingly stupid?
The biggest name in male modeling. Derek Zoolander has been on the top since he broke onto the scene. His looks stun the world- Ferrari. La Tigra. Blue Steel. They stop people in their tracks and inspire them. Celebrities love him. Fashion icons love him. Girls want to be with him. But, as proven in the interview he's having at the beginning, he may not be the smartest. His answers leave a lot to be desired, especially on headier subjects. The biggest news, though- he's working on a new look. Magnum. It's top secret, but when the world sees it, nothing will ever be the same. He cuts the interview short because he's got somewhere to be- the VH1 Fashion Awards.
Derek has won Male Model of the Year 3 years running, and he tells the press that he feels no worry about his chances. His modeling agent, Maury Ballstein (Balls Models. Subtlety at its finest) shows up and assures them there's no way that Derek can lose. More key players show up, such as Mugatu (a man with oddly familiar looking weird hair), who is met with a wave of protestors about his human rights violations to make cheap clothes, and after him, Hansel shows up.
Hansel is so hot right now. Just the flip-up, foldable scooter he arrives on is so cool, and he performs crazy yo-yo tricks without even seeming to think about them. Though a fairly young model, he's already pretty well known, and is a huge threat to Zoolander's reign on top. He's just so hot right now!
Cutting to the awards, we find Fabio giving an acceptance speech for his actor/model award before Lenny Kravitz comes on and introduces the real award- Male Model of the Year. It starts with a sizzle reel for Hansel, who's making a really big impact on the industry with his down-to-earth, 'grittier' style. A reel for Derek plays next, showing him and his wide range of products and advertisements. Lenny gets up on stage and reads the winner. Hansel. Derek, prepared to take the award once more, doesn't listen and gets up on the stage, giving his acceptance speech until it's pointed out that he lost. In the audience, Mugatu is talking to Ballstein and says that Derek is the idiot they need for this. Sadly, Ballstein agrees.
The game of "Fashion Awards Telephone" gets awkward.
Outside the awards show, Derek is lost in thought. He gazes at himself in a puddle and asks "Who am I?" His reflection responds "I don't know." Hansel rides by on his scooter, bragging about the award, and Derek starts to walk home. He hits Times Square and looks at an advertisement of his, which is then taken over by one of Hansel. The giant TV screen there shows Derek's embarrassing on-stage embarrassment at the awards ceremony, and he finally returns home, where there's a party sign waiting for him, but his roommates are already asleep.
The next day, Brint, Rufus and Meekus are badmouthing Hansel when Derek stops them and asks if they ever considered that there was more to life than just being really, really, really ridiculously good looking. Things like helping people. They tell him that male models do help people- they make them feel go about themselves, show them how to dress cool and style their hair awesome. It makes Derek feel a little better, but they know the one thing that can cheer him up like nothing else- ORANGE MOCHA FRAPPUCCINO!
Oh, what a goofabout they have, driving down the street as WHAM! plays over the radio, drinks in hand. They pull into a gas station and start washing the car, but it turns into a fight with the squeegees. Derek looks away and sees someone throwing away a copy of Time, the magazine he was interviewed for, and he goes over to read. It shows him on the cover wearing an "I'm with stupid!" shirt that points upwards and bears the headline "Derek Zoolander: A Model Idiot?" (which he reads as "A model, idiot"). He looks back at his friends, now spraying each other with gasoline (rollicking good time!) and smiles until one of them puts a cigarette in his mouth and lights it.
....triple funeral, what does it mean.
At their funeral, Zoolander is giving a eugoogoly (eulogy) and is just about to make an important announcement when Hansel shows up and interrupts it. After the DJ stops playing music for Hansel, Derek shouts that he's announcing his retirement from the male modeling business. He runs into Matilda, the reporter from the beginning, and she apologizes for the headline in the magazine, saying it was her boss who put it on. He doesn't care, since no one he knows reads Time (or whatever), and brushes her off when she asks for help finding out more about Mugatu.
Derek stops by Ball's Models and mentions he'd like to go home and get in touch with his family again, but Ballstein tries to stop him by mentioning that Mugatu, the only fashion designer who never worked with Zoolander, wants to work with Zoolander. Though Derek is intrigued, he nonetheless declines and goes to find his father and brothers.
The Zoolander men work on a coal mine, and they're less than happy to see Derek, clad in a designer suit with designer luggage, waltz down the road and start talking to them like he'd never left. They seem disgraced by the fact Derek showed up, but he insists that he stay and help in the coal mine. What follows is him sucking terribly at the job, despite his rippling biceps and being in peak physical condition. He loses the pickaxe on a backswing, can't lift more than a small rock, and hides in the shadows covered in blackface to scare people.
Water is the essence of wetness. Wetness is the essence of beauty.
After work, in the bar on-site, Derek is sitting down dejectedly when an advertisement of him as a mermaid comes on. His dad starts to tell him what a disgrace he is, that Derek is dead to him, more than their dead mother, who at least didn't see Derek become a mermaid. "MERMAN!" Derek yells, and storms out, asking the heavens once more "WHO AM I?!"
Still not receiving an answer, he just heads back to the city to see what Mugatu wants from him after receiving a call from Maury. Derek had mentioned earlier that he might like to start a center to teach kids how to read, so Mugatu reveals a scale model of the Derek Zoolander Center for Children who Can't Read Good and Want to Learn to Do Other Stuff Good As Well. Enraged, Derek smashes the model, exclaiming that it's a sick joke, and that it's impossible to teach kids if they can't even fit in the building. Ignoring this gaffe, Mugatu takes Derek and shows him the new fashion line.
Derelicte. Based on garbage. In fact, it's just garbage, put together into vaguely clothes-like shapes. There's seriously just a hobo sitting there in the room. Mugatu than introduces Derek to Katinka, who will be his handler for the show. She loads him into a car and takes him to an exclusive day spa- so exclusive, few people have even heard of it. It's very quasi-futuristic, for being built in what looks like a burnt-out, rusted trailer: silver and white walls, lights on almost every surface. Katinka leads Derek through the hallways and into one of the rooms.
Meanwhile, Matilda is working late, and her assistant drops a giant folder on her desk with information on Mugatu. However, there aren't records of him before 1995. She then gets a mysterious call saying to go Pier 12, where the spa is, so she can see the REAL face of male modeling. She heads out, enters, forces through Katinka, and walks in to see Derek getting a massage from a fat, ugly woman (who's really played by Andy Dick because why not). He turns over and has a massive erection that seems sentient- it moves on its own as the masseuse tries to pat it down. Katinka catches up and kicks Matilda out, telling her to never come back again.
Just relax, Derek. Relax... haha... ha... ha...
Back in the spa, it shows them strapping Derek into a chair (which he thinks is part of a seaweed wrap) and as they tell him to relax, Relax starts to play, and then a video goes. It's Mugatu, telling him everything's ok, and that he should just relax. He then starts telling Derek about child labor laws, and how BAD they are. Kids everywhere want to work, but mean governments won't let them. So to stop Malaysia from following suit, Derek has one thing to do: ignore the beautiful celebrities and KILL THE MALAYSIAN PRIME MINISTER! Derek's now on a runway, running, flipping, doing karate towards a dummy of the prime minister. He reaches the dummy, grabs the head, and rips it off. As he stares at it, the face morphs into Mugatu, then him. Then he wakes up.
And he's back in his apartment. Melinda is at the door, telling him that he's been asleep for a week, and when he checks his message, it's a bit higher than usual: about 12,000. It HAS been a week, and the Derelicte show is tomorrow then. When she keeps telling him that she's concerned something happened, he misinterprets it and thinks she wants to have sex with him, but she denies it and leaves (after Derek pulls her hair down) and it's shown that Katinka is watching Derek's apartment.
Later, at a party for Derelicte's launch, Zoolander is talking with Billy Zane and a few other celebrities glad to see him back on top. One person isn't though. Hansel. He's just so hot right now. He rudely bumps shoulders with Derek, and they proceed to taunt each other poorly and then the challenge is issued for a walk-off. Derek thinks, then accepts, and the crowd follows them out and to an abandoned Members Only warehouse. Matilda shows up and follows, confused as to what's going on.
Suaveness and gravitas= Suavitas.
As they step on the walkway and warm up, Hansel asks who's going to be calling the match. One David Bowie steps out of the crowd and volunteers his service, setting down the rules.
Old-School Model Walk Off Rules (as explained by David Bowie)
First model walks.
Second model duplicates and elaborates.
First unable to duplicate is eliminated.
From his emphasis on their use of old school rules, it can be extrapolated there are many other rule sets, but those aren't important.
The walk off starts with Derek going first. It starts simple, and Hansel is easily able to replicate. In fact, no
Hand in pants. This is happening.
matter what Derek does, Hansel repeats it with ease. It's getting ugly out there, too. They have to cut Hansel ('s hair) so that he can see, and finally, as he sits on the sidelines, he has an epiphany of sorts. He gets on stage. He walks down the runway, simple, but with confidence. As he reaches the end, he reaches up his hand and shoves it down his pants. He rocks his hand around a bit and proceeds to... pull off his underwear, and holds it over his head triumphantly. Everyone is shocked. Derek has no choice but to go up there and try what he knows he cannot do (mostly he's just happy he remembered to wear underwear today) and shoves his hand in his pants. Then both hands. He's in there for a while. But we all know what's going to come next- a leopard print wedgie. To Hansel goes the spoils.
Walking out with Matilda, defeated, Derek explains that Hansel could have beaten him without that miraculous feat. All he had to do was turn left. As the stirring music plays, it's revealed that Derek isn't an ambiturner. He can only turn right. Matilda tries to comfort him, but fails, and answers her phone when it rings. It's the same person as before, telling her to go to Saint Adonis cemetery. There, she'll find the truth.
How could this dirty man know? He's not a model!
When they get there, they notice all of the male model graves have on thing in common- they all died before the age of 30. A voice calls out to them, and a man walks out, explaining that he did. It's the tipster, who proceeds to explain what's going on. Male models have been behind every major political assassination over the last 200 years. Lincoln outlawed slavery, which made fashion prices go up, so the first model/actor, John Wilkes Booth, killed him. Kennedy was shot by two models on a grassy knoll. Why? Because models are stupid and easy to brainwash. They do everything they're told. They're in top physical shape. They can get anywhere and they can get close to anyone. It's perfect.
The tipster is a handmodel, one J.P. Prewitt. He built a hyperbolic chamber to keep his hand from aging. The only reason he made it so far is because he's smarter than a male model- hand models work differently. They're smarter. But before he can finish talking, he gets shot. Katinka and her goons have arrived. Prewitt tells them that Ballstein has records on his computer, and they need to get it. The pair run off (Derek crushing the hyperbolic chamber) and decide they need to find a place to hide for a while. But where's the place no one would look for them?
When Hansel opens the door, he starts mocking Derek, but Derek stops him and asks for a place to stay. Hansel agrees, but says that they have to work some stuff out first, like why they're being so messed up towards each other. Zoolander admits that he felt threatened by Hansel, and Hansel admits that he was intimidated by Zoolander. In fact, Zoolander inspired him to become a model in the first place! They hug it out and go inside, where it's a commune of sorts. There's a half pipe, a group of midgets in a band, and just a bunch of people chilling with each other. Hansel orders up some special tea to loosen Matilda and Zoolander up, and they go sit in another room.
"What do you mean, my nose is weird?!"
They start talking to Matilda, asking her why she hates models so much, and she explained that when she was younger, to get a perfect body like the girls in the magazines, she became bulimic. They're shocked at the fact that she can read minds, but she clears it up that it means she throws up after meals. They crack up, telling her "I do it all the time! It's a fast way to lose weight!" She gets mad that they're taking it so lightly and the conversation turns to her sex life. When it's revealed she doesn't have one, Hansel suggests that they get naked. An orgy happens.
The next day, Derek suggests that he may be falling for Matilda, and Hansel agrees they have a great energy. When she comes in the room, she gets mad that they're wasting time when the show is so soon and they still haven't found a way to stop Derek, or even what his cue to kill the PM would be. They can't even get to Ballstein's computer, but Derek (unexpectedly) has an idea. When he was starting his modeling, he did his own makeup and styling, she he comes up with the idea of putting on a disguise so they can sneak in.
A Mexican and African American janitor make their way into Ballstein's office. One of them is wearing a
IN THE COMPUTER.
familiar look... and of course it's Hansel and Derek (respectively). They get in but can't figure out how to work the computer. They start jumping all over it and Hansel almost destroys it, but Derek stops him, saying he has to leave for the show. He runs out, and Hansel calls Matilda, who says that the files they're looking for are in the computer. Hansel's eyes widen. In the computer? IN IT?! It's so ingenious.
Matilda, back at the office, gets an update from Archie, her assistant, who has finally found out about Mugatu; or should he say, Jacob Moogberg, original keyboard player for Frankie Goes to Hollywood. He was kicked out before they hit it with Relax, and then invented the piano key necktie. He's been in the business ever since. A bit later, Matilda realizes the trigger. It's Relax! She thanks Archie and heads off for the fashion show.
Derek is going on stage when she gets there, and she screams the trigger, but he doesn't understand her. As he's walking, the DJ shifts tracks to Relax and Derek looks around. He ignores the beautiful celebrities, as he was told, and starts to flip out again, heading towards the Prime Minister, who's seated at the very edge of the walkway. Hansel arrives just in time, though, and kicks the DJ, switches the fader to a different song, and Derek snaps out immediately and heads back up the runway.
The DJ isn't down for the count, though, and he starts to fight Hansel. They start breakdance fighting, and each switches the fader between songs as they gain the upper hand. When Hansel is knocked to the floor, though, he starts to crawl towards the plug. Derek's not waiting, though. He's at the end of the runway. He flip over the Prime Minister. He grabs his head. Right before it's too late, Hansel pulls the plug and guards sieze Derek, dragging him away. Everyone is shocked that Derek tried to kill the Prime Minister, and Hansel jumps up with the computer, explaining that Derek was brainwashed and that the files in the computer will prove it. He throws the computer to the ground, and is shocked when there are no files.
Mugatu thinks he's off scot-free now, but Ballstein gets on stage and says he has it all backed up. He gets his wife to bring the zip disc (there's a reference) and Mugatu, sensing the end, points out that Derek is over the hill. His career is over. And he only had 1 look! La Tigra, Ferrari, Blue Steel... they're all the same! He then decides that if Derek won't pull off the hit, then he will. He grabs an M shaped shuriken and throws it down the runway.
Looking at this image has made time stop.
Derek's mad. One look? ONE LOOK? He jumps on stage, turns, and, lights shining behind him, a halo of light circling out, he reveals his new look to the world. Magnum. It's beautiful. It's more than anyone could have imagined. It even makes Mugatu admit its beauty, and the shuriken stops in midair. Everyone cheers, and Matilda grabs him and tells him he did it, and he's excited too. He turned left! He actually turned left! Oh, and yeah, the Prime Minister. He and Matilda share a kiss and the flash brings us a few years into the future.
The Derek Zoolander Center for Kids who Can't Read Good and Want to Learn to Do Other Stuff Good As Well has been built, and Zoolander is shooting an ad for it. Ballstein's quit the modeling business and is working as a teacher. So is Hansel. Matilda, meanwhile, comes up with her and Derek's son. He made his first look that day, and the chuckle gladly as he shows it off. The camera pans to the statues of Meekus, Brint and Rufus in the fountain at the entrance to the Center, immortalized in their final moments of pouring gas on each other.
There has been some confusion as to which look Derek is using at any given point in the movie. Please
La Tigra brings a slight animal edge to Zoolander's look. Like an animal, pondering how to eat you. Look out, kitty has claws!
Icy. Cold. Chilling, but suave and self assured. Blue Steel encompasses Zoolander in look of being distant from you, yet a strong individual. This look is stainless!
This is a fast look with tight curves that gets your engine roaring. Playful, but graceful, this look asks you to come and take a ride... and don't mind the speed limit.
There is no mistaking Magnum.
Satire and Parody
In all ways does Zoolander get to work with being a farcical parody of the fashion industry's excesses.
He doesn't even know what a hand is!
The biggest point here is the involvement of the Derelicte show, which literally shows off garbage as fashion and no one says otherwise. Models, in addition, are all shown to be stupid, promiscuous and subservient to others. If you're told to dance like a monkey, you do it. Everything about the shot composition, as well, shows a style similar to a fashion shoot, thus aiding in the parody. Everything is well let, high definition and shot at very specific angles to show people having a good time while rocking these sweet clothes.
In addition, the walk-off is a very strong parody, implying that models can only do one thing- model. Even their fights are modeling competitions, and the glitz and glam in these "underground" shows still rival real shows, no matter how impromptu.
The satire goes much lighter, mostly focusing on the child labor laws and the idea of the fashion industry using child labor. That's not to say it doesn't happen- Zoolander actually points out a serious issue- but it puts a humorous spin on it at parts and otherwise shoves it to the background in respect to the main plot.
Zoolander scored a Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, though just barely, scraping out a 62%. The agreement was that this movie is really stupid; but stupid in a way that's so all-encompassing that you can't help but go along with it. Owen Wilson's and Ben Stiller's performances were also praised.
At the box office, things were a bit rougher. Zoolander was one of the first comedies to hit after 9/11, only 2 weeks later, and people didn't seem to want to go to a silly comedy like this so soon after a national tragedy. It didn't do terrible at the theaters in the long run, but it more than made up its money on DVD and is still a hit on cable networks.
The movie was banned in Malaysia for making light of its child labor and human rights violations, and a few other countries banned it as well, citing bilateral sensitivities and excessive drug use.
Bret Easton Ellis' book Glamorama, released in 1998, and Zoolander share some very strong similarities, and Ellis said on record that he was aware of them. He considered taking legal action, but in the end an out-of-court settlement prevented him from going on record about similarities (and kept him happy).
Ben Stiller confirmed, back in 2008, that he intends to make a sequel to this movie. Later, in 2009, he announced that he was still narrowing down his script ideas. In 2010, Stiller confirmed he is working on the script and it's definitely going to happen.
Rumors attach Justin Theroux to the project, who wrote part of Iron Man 2, and may direct a sequel as well as direct it.