Idiocy and fashion prove to be a fine pair

Zoolander could have easily been written by David Zucker, Airplane and Naked Gun’s mastermind. It is a surprise he didn’t write this one – Zucker’s eccentric form of stupidity is all over the film.

Instead, it’s a Ben Stiller production, written and directed. Oftentimes surreal, Zoolander’s slam on the vanity of modeling and fashion is almost lost in a swell of random happenstance. The limited plot is even interrupted for a six or so minute dance off – err, walk off – between Stiller and co-star Owen Wilson. No one seems to notice or care.

Fifteen years on, Zoolander has not lost much of its comedic bite. Dated cameos by Cuba Gooding Jr. and other not-so-superstars are the only signs of Zoolander’s early millennium appearance. The script is wise to dodge rapidly dated cultural references, sticking tightly to a lampooning of egos and superficial style.

The movie is nothing without Stiller and his hackneyed accent. Zoolander swims in running gags and looks which serve to build an impossibly clueless individual. Christine Taylor’s pokey journalist is the audience reactionary and grounding. She’s just as bewildered as everyone. Her role is a David Zucker hallmark.

Stiller’s film lacks coherency or brains, but underneath spits up a lean story willing to blast the corrupted, capitalist ideology of clothing manufacturers.

Somewhere in the middle is an international assassination plot. The target? A Malaysian president fighting for working wages for his country’s workers. That could sink the fashion industry’s exploitative side, continuing Zoolander’s strike at fashion’s nonsense. Stiller’s film lacks coherency or brains, but underneath spits up a lean story willing to blast the corrupted, capitalist ideology of clothing manufacturers. Mentions of child labor and exaggerated images of coal miners make a fine contrast to Zoolander’s posh modeling gig.

As utterly idiotic as Zoolander enjoys being, it’s also insanely funny. Scenes have few limitations or barriers. Will Ferrell donning an oversized lollipop, discharging electricity, or duplicating himself in a hallucination are fair game. Zoolander is speedy in establishing how crooked its own world is. By the time people are removing underwear with their pants on, the scope of reality has long been defeated.

Careful too is the writing – a chunk of this movie is undoubtedly improv though – slinging successful lines with proper pacing and frequency. Without a retaining wall, racial stereotyping and dazzling examples of sexism are lampooned to an extreme. There are but a handful of moments which die off, keeping Zoolander comically postured as it dips into a finale of broken computers, kung fu, breakdancing kung fu, and a slew of pop hits. It’s a manic conclusion to an already manic film. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Movie]

Stiller detailed @ 7:48

Zoolander originally came to Blu-ray under Warner Bros. Through whatever rigmarole was needed, it’s back home under Paramount who re-issue the comedy in a blue steelbook. Yes, that is the intended joke.

Paramount does some dazzling things with Zoolander’s sharp, focused cinematography. Before everyone became uber obsessed with tweaking color timing, Zoolander was a movie (mostly) free from digital tinkering. Flesh tones are accurate and primaries have zip. Zoolander is flushed with different hues, each gorgeous as they pop from the frame.

Grain is nicely handled by a hefty bitrate, preserving a print clearly scanned at high resolution. Dirt, debris, and damage are non-existent. Imagery passes by without fault and fidelity is incredible. Facial definition is among the peak capability of Blu-ray. Few discs present high-frequency information in such clarity. Every bit of skin or clothing is resolved to a premium degree. Zoolander may be modern in context, although it does qualify as a catalog release. In that regard, it ranks highly…

… except for black crush. Stiller’s black hair and eventually black clothing have a nasty habit of becoming one with the background. Black levels munch on shadow details without a release. Few scenes pass by where they don’t overwhelm the video. It’s too persistent a problem to let pass. Black crush impacts a majority of frames here. So close. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Video]

A gasoline explosion is the first jolt Zoolander’s DTS-HD track will provide. It’s limited. LFE support grumbles into action, registering slightly. Surround and stereo channels pick up the majority. Ambient crowds during fashion shows or arrivals are pleasing too.

Zoolander’s key audio sequence is a brainwashing, with dialog and effects making a full traversal of the soundfield. Images pan across the screen, mixing work being careful to track each piece. Dynamic range kicks in to add some boldness to the proceedings which isn’t evident elsewhere. However, Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” will probably never sound cleaner than it does here. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Audio]

Bonus features will be familiar to previous Zoolander owners, beginning with a commentary from Ben Stiller and writers Drake Sather & John Hamburg. Note a one minute preview of Zoolander 2 can be ignored.

Other bonuses are shoved into Zoolander’s Closet, such as six minutes of outtakes. A picture-in-picture comparison of the breakdance sequence’s rehearsal and finished edit is fun to watch. An alternate take on the brainwashing is included as a storyboard, while a bunch of deleted/extended scenes follow. Promos and trailers in various forms are next, from faux-MTV Cribs episodes to in-character PSAs running less than a minute each. [xrr rating=3/5 label=Extras]

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.


Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.

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