Ben Stiller's third directorial outing is an extremely silly and soft-centred satire on the fashion industry. Firmly in the tradition of the big screen outings of US TV comedy Saturday Night Live - of which Stiller is a graduate - it's patchy and occasionally irritating. However, it's also occasionally very funny.
Derek Zoolander (Stiller) is the world's premiere male model, coming to the end of his time at the top, thanks to rising blond bombshell Hansel (Wilson). Figuring that there must be more to life than "being really, really, really good looking", Zoolander decides to retire. Sinister fashion magnate Mugatu (Ferrell) has designs on the dim-witted clothes-horse, though: with the Malaysian prime minister cracking down on sweatshops, Mugatu brainwashes Derek into killing him...
Stiller was a 'name' director before he became a big star (thanks to 1998 hit "There's Something about Mary"). The critically-mauled dark farce "The Cable Guy" (1996) was prefigured by the self-conscious Generation X navel-gazing of "Reality Bites" (1994).
Thankfully, in "Zoolander" he's left behind any pretensions and decided to enjoy himself. Stiller's humour takes some tuning into - particularly in the opening half hour, where several jokes fail to click and Ferrell's camp villainy simply grates - but the frenetic buffoonery does score several big laughs.
None of the humour is particularly barbed - Zoolander was, after all, originally created for the VH1 Fashion Awards - but the mock-up magazine covers and fashion-speak drivel are sharply observed, and a flurry of cameos (Victoria Beckham, David Bowie, Billy Zane) lends an air of authenticity to the idiocy. Most enjoyable is Wilson, whose impeccable timing in the climax elevates the sometimes bizarre material to moments that border comedy genius.