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May 04

FT Top 100 Films 93: ZOOLANDER

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A satire? On the fashion industry? Well that must be pretty redundant.

Yes. It is. Which is exactly why Zoolander is good. Writer/Star/Director Ben Stiller realised that turning a one minute VH1 Fashion Awards (!) joke into a fully fledged film had to do something else on the side. What usually happens here is fleshing out of secondary characters, complex plots and so on. But wait, the secondary character is also a male model, not much for contrast. And the plot is some guff about ex-models being used as assasins against regimes that want to get rid of sweat shops*.

No the space was filled up with some tremendously stupid jokes. Models are stupid is the joke: as proved when we see four go up in flames after a perfectly choreographed petrol fight. We have the juxtaposition gag – Derek Zoolander as a coal miner. We have the conspiracy theory gags. And out of the blue we have strangeness about Frankie Goes To Hollywood, illiteracy and the inability to turn left. Mainly though the film coasts on the goodwill caused by finding the double act of our generation. Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson have the easy camaraderie that is impossible to fake in movies, and (as recently shown to too much effect in Starsky & Hutch) can talk about almost anything together and be funny. Zoolander goes the extra mile because it is also remarkably stupid.

One should never be surprised by an unexpected David Bowie cameo in a film, the man is a media whore after all. But Billy Zane. Genius.

*The lack of political earnest on this plot line is also a joy to behold.

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