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Male supermodel Derek Zoolander is pretty sure there's more to life than being really, really good looking, and he's itching to find out what it is.


Once the world's most famous male model, Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller) finds his star waning when he's edged out of the VH-1 Male Model of the Year award by his arch rival, the kooky, new-age, hippie model Hansel (Owen Wilson). Rejected and dejected, Zoolander embarks on a quest to find himself and finds an unlikely companion in the brainy reporter (Christine Taylor) who helped bring about his downfall with her Time expose. But others have their own diabolical plan for Zoolander in the works--namely, the evil fashion designer Mugatu (Will Ferrell) and Zoolander's own agent, Maury Ballstein of Balls Models (Jerry Stiller). Mugatu, fearing the Malaysian prime minister will raise the minimum wage and thus drive up costs in the fashion industry, is scheming to have Zoolander hypnotized into killing the prime minister.


Zoolander and Hansel are about as deep as a lake on the moon, but Stiller and Wilson ham up their dumb-himbo roles without being too in on the joke as the modeling industry is spoofed mercilessly. Somehow it's not so far-fetched to imagine Mugatu's haute couture ''Derelicte'' line, the ''look of the homeless,'' being sold at a Saks near you this fall. Blonde, corseted, and bearing a frightening resemblance to Prodigy's lead singer, Ferrell manages (for once) to be both over-the-top and funny as the villainous über designer who became a fashion prodigy after creating the piano-key necktie. Taylor (a dead ringer for a grown-up Marcia Brady) as diligent journo Matilda is the film's straight man, but keeps up with the boys' pace and pulls off some great reaction shots--watch as she incredulously rebuffs Zoolander after he makes the assumption she wants to sleep with him.


In addition to co-writing and starring, Stiller also directed this piece of slapstick fluff that he and writing partner Drake Sather created out of their 1996 VH1 Fashion Awards sketch. The very idea that Stiller and Wilson could be two of the world's top supermodels is a funny enough premise on its own (although it leads to one rather frightening thought: are male models such cultural centerpieces that spoofing them warrants an entire movie?). Well, whatever; its all in silly fun, anyway. Some of the jokes don't stick and a few are overlong, but most work--the Thriller style showdown, a ''walk-off'' between the two to determine once and for all who's tops, is a belly-busting bit of comic genius. When Stiller's on, he's on. Just try to refrain from looking for the World Trade Center in the shots of New York City.

Bottom Line

Pretty vacant, Zoolander's lowbrow, escapist humor might just make it the movie you're looking for to get out of the doldrums.