Ben Stiller plays the titular Derek Zoolander, a runway model with a low BMI and an even lower IQ to match. He gets unwillingly caught up in a scheme to assassinate the President of Malaysia, while also handling a TIME Magazine reporter and the curt advances of his supposed rival, Hansel (played by Owen Wilson). Zoolander feels very much like a popular character who would have been crafted during Stiller’s short days on SNL, but this movie is about more than just the man who shares its name. Everyone in “Zoolander” is reasonably fleshed out and relatable, even if they are all still over-the-top goofy.
While not recognized for its quality and spark during its initial release in 2001, the movie earned its rightful cult-status a few years later. There’s a strong argument that could be made that this is Ben Stiller’s single best film. Even in the midst of all this appreciation, “Zoolander” is still loved for the wrong reasons. Or rather, audiences perceive this movie to be one type of comedy movie when it is quite closer to another. It is not the laugh-out-loud comedy flick, but the reverse, ticking time bomb flick, where we actually enjoy every second, rather than just a few explosive moments of laughter.
This holds true when you think about how very little to nothing that happens in “Zoolander” is truly laugh-out-loud funny. The funniest moments are given by Will Ferrell’s character Mugatu, over the annoyed remark from David Duchovny after Derek asks a question for the second time in a row. There are moments where you will find yourself giving out a short chuckle, or even a non-verbal body laugh, but mostly everything is subdued.
This roadrunner movie stamina gives “Zoolander” more in resemblance with comedy classics like “Airplane!” than it does with other 2000-era comedies like “Old School” or “Anchorman.” We don’t think of “Zoolander” this way because of its star components and gleefully goofy persona. But dig deeper underneath and you’ll realize this is one of the best comedic feats of our times, an expansive level of humor as durable and longlasting as blue steel.