It's great to see that America hasn't lost its taste for gratuitous violence given the events of September 11, 2001. There's a hilarious scene in Zoolander where three male models spray petrol on each other playfully (like a soap commercial). One of them decides to light up and they all blow up. The audience was rolling with laughter at this point.

Zoolander is mild commentary on both the trivial nature of fashion/show business as well as the plight of sweat shop workers worldwide. Since the fashion industry (at least in the film) stands to gain from cheap child labour, they are against the newest Malaysian Prime Minister's campaign promises to eradicate child labour as well as increase wages. They ask fashion giant Jacobin Mugatu (Will Ferrell) to find someone incredibly stupid so this person can be brainwashed into assassinating the Prime Minister.

Cue to Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller), the male super model who has won the Model of the Year award thrice in a row and has just lost to Hansel (Owen Wilson) in the fourth year. Depressed, Zoolander lacks a sense of purpose until Mugatu convinces him to model the new "Derelicte" line of clothes (modelled after homeless people in New York City). Zoolander is unwittingly brainwashed into executing Mugatu's plan, but Matilda Jeffries (Christine Taylor), a TIME Magazine writer and Zoolander's love interest, ends up being a fly in Mugatu's hair gel.

After the initial "there's got to be more to life than looking really really really good" lines, delivered with biting wit by Stiller, the film gets into high gear coming up with a few classic scenes including the above mentioned petrol party scene, the coal mine scene where Zoolander starts to work, and his reaction to a model for an institute he wants to build to help children read really really good. Owen Wilson is also steals some scenes as the cocky and equally stupid Hansel. Appearances by David Duchovny and Billy Zane are also amusing. The 80s music soundtrack is the icing on the cake.

Even though the commentary about the vacuousness of the show/modelling/entertainment industry is pretty much on the mark, that doesn't mean the industry a bad thing. It's a sign of an affluent society where one can devote insane amounts of resources to the inane and insipid.

Zoolander is a fun movie, delivering what you'd expect from a Stiller effort (he wrote and directed), perhaps even more. The movie's messages are on the mark, but it delivers them with a sense of whacked-out fun. Given the recent events, there's no doubt that Zoolander is going to end up being offensive to various groups of people. In my view, that adds to its punch.

Movie ramblings || Ram Samudrala || me@ram.org