Film / Zoolander

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Derek Zoolander: Really Really Really Ridiculously Good Looking
"For the last decade, male modelling has been dominated by one name, and five syllables: Der! Ek! Zoo! Lan! DER!"

A 2001 comedy film directed by and starring Ben Stiller, co-starring Owen Wilson, Will Ferrell, Christine Taylor, Milla Jovovich, Jerry Stiller, and Jon Voight.

Derek Zealander (Stiller) is a really, really ridiculously good-looking male model, who also happens to be incredibly shallow and not too bright. He suffers a professional and personal setback when he loses the Male Model of the Year crown to rookie Hansel ("he's so hot right now") and three of his friends to a freak gasoline fight accident.

His manager sends him to a week-long day spa, but it turns out to be a brainwashing center, where Derek becomes a sleeper agent programmed to assassinate the prime minister of Malaysia, who is obstructing the fashion industry's use of cheap Malaysian sweatshop labor. It's up to Derek, his love interest Matilda, and his rival-turned-friend Hansel ("he's so hot right now") to foil this plot and help Derek live past thirty.

A sequel, Zoolander 2, was released in 2016.


This film has examples of:

  • Adam Westing: A number of real-life celebrities make cameo appearances in the film. The one who plays the most on his image is probably Fabio, who appears at the beginning of the film, accepting the "slashie" award for "best model slash actor" and "not the other way around". Fabio-esque male models are the main brunt on the film's satire.
  • Also Sprach Zarathustra: Part of a Shout-Out to 2001: A Space Odyssey.
  • Answer Cut: When Mugatu is told in the opening scene that he needs to find someone dim enough to be brainwashed into the assassination plot:
    Mugatu: But who?! Where in all of God's green goodness am I gonna find someone that....BEEF-HEADED?!
    *cut to Derek Zoolander photoshoot*
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: After giving Derek a Long List of what he's supposed to do as an assassin, Mugatu adds: "Obey my dog!"
  • Artistic License – Geography: Played for Laughs with the coal mines of South Jersey - the actual South Jersey is fairly flat and consists primarily of coastal plains and farmland.
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: Katinka Inka Babovinanana.
  • Babies Ever After: The ending. Derek's son even adopts his first look: a pout reminiscent of his daddy's.
  • Backhanded Apology: The Jerkass version gets used twice.
  • The Baroness: Katinka.
  • Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: The fashion industry has been behind every major assassination for the past 200 years, using male models as assassins, including the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.
  • Berserk Button: "One look? ONE LOOK?!"
  • Big Bad: Mugatu is the main antagonist of the film.
  • Big "NO!": Derek's reaction when he realizes his friends are about to get burned to death by a carelessly lit cigarette courtesy of Brint.
  • Brainless Beauty: Male models (although according to David Duchovny's character, hand models "work differently"). Also, Fabio is apparently too smart for the job that Mugatu brainwashed Derek to do.
  • Brick Joke: "Derek, you did it!" "I know, I turned left!"
  • Buffy Speak: The Derek Zoolander Center For Kids Who Can't Read Good And Wanna Learn To Do Other Stuff Good Too.
  • The Cameo: Lots, from the celebrities at the fashion show in the opening part of the film to Billy Zane's memetic role to David Bowie as the walkoff judge, and lots more where that came from. Also includes James Marsden in a blink-and-you'll-miss-it shot as John Wilkes Booth during the assassination exposition.
  • Captain Oblivious: The runway competition.
  • Catapult Nightmare: Derek wakes up from his brainwashing session by smashing his head into the top of his bunk bed, then rolling out onto the floor.
  • Catch-Phrase: Mugatu's variations on Hansel being "so hot right now."
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Rhymes with "Derek Zoolander".
  • Chekhov's Gag: Derek's initial brainwashing from Mugatu involves cardboard cutouts of "beautiful celebrities," including Lance Bass, Lil Kim, Fred Durst, and..... Garry Shandling. Sure enough, when it comes time for the assassination attempt, the celebrities lining the stage are all the celebrities from the former sequence. Including Garry Shandling.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Magnum, and Hansel's yoyo skills.
  • Cooking Duel: The runway walk-off.
  • Competence Zone: None of the male models lives past thirty (except the precious few who wise up and retire beforehand), something that The Omniscient Council of Vagueness ruthlessly enforces.
  • Conspiracy Kitchen Sink: According to J.P. Prewett, pretty much every assassination in history can be traced back to the international fashion industry.
    Matilda: Wait a minute, Lee Harvey Oswald wasn't a male model.
    Prewett: You're goddamn right he wasn't, but those two lookers on the Grassy Knoll sure as shit were!
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: The fashion industry executives.
  • Comically Missing the Point: This exchange from the film's climax.
    Matilda: Derek, you did it!
    Derek: I know! I turned left!
    Matilda: (beat) That too, but you also saved the Prime Minister of Malaysia!
    Derek: Oh. Cool.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Derek and Hansel may be male models and dumb as rocks as a result, but Derek's looks can stop flying shurikens in mid-air and Hansel is a skilled breakdance fighter.
  • Cymbal-Banging Monkey: In a flashback, Derek is briefly shown dressed up as one, while an off-screen voice commands him to "dance, monkey, dance!"
  • Dance Battler: "They're breakdance fighting!"
  • Dark Action Girl: Katinka, who is also The Dragon.
  • Department of Redundancy Department:
    Hansel: "And I felt like this guy is really hurting me. And it hurt!"
    Derek: Maybe you don't understand that the world doesn't revolve around you and your "Do whatever it takes, ruin as many people's lives, just so long as you can make a name for yourself as an investigatory journalist, no matter how many friends you lose, or people you leave dead and bloodied along the way, just so long as you can make a name for yourself as an investigatory journalist, no matter how many friends you lose, or people you leave dead and bloodied and dying along the way?"
  • Dirty Old Man: Maury Ballstein.
  • Disney Acid Sequence: The drug-fueled orgy.
  • Dull Surprise: All of Derek's so-called "looks" are nigh-identical (however, his "Magnum" look stops a shuriken in mid-air. Even Mugatu is wowed: "Dear god, it's beautiful!").
    • There is a difference between Magnum and all the rest: he turns left before delivering it. Less mindblowing-ly, his head is also vertical, as opposed to the angle his other looks were at.
  • Dumbass Has a Point: Derek and Hansel, probably two of the dimmest bulbs in all of cinema, somehow manage to make truly poignant and insightful observations about what's going on, adding to some of the surprisingly subtle moments of the film's humor.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Derek may be dumb, but he knows that lighting a cigarette on gasoline is a bad idea, as his model friends found out the hard way.
  • Falling in Love Montage: Parodied in the orgy scene, where Matilda begins by making out with Derek and Hansel, and then the partners get a little... weird.
  • Fashion Designer: Mugatu designs many of the clothes modeled, and he is credited with creating the piano necktie.
  • Fashion Model: The main character is a male supermodel.
  • Fashion Show: The finale takes place at one (as an assassination is supposed to take place there), and the film has a few others.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Derek and Hansel started as the worst of enemies but when things get ugly they become the best of friends.
  • Freudian Excuse: Matilda was ridiculed and laughed at because of her being overweight as a child to the point that she developed bulimia. Since then, she believes models would hurt one's self-esteem.
  • Genius Ditz: Derek (and most everyone associated with the fashion industry) is a complete moron, but when it comes to fashion, make-up and just improving one's physical appearance he is a genius.
  • Glowing Eyes of Doom: Mugatu's toy poodle; during the brainwashing sequence, its eyes flash bright green.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: The conglomerate of fashion moguls Mugatu answers to.
  • Heroic B.S.O.D.: Derek when Hansel wins the Male Model of the Year and when his friends are killed in a freak gasoline fight accident.
  • Hidden Depths: Derek can speak Malay.
  • Historical Rap Sheet: Brainwashed male models set in motion by an evil council of fashion designers have had a hand in every major assassination attempt, beginning with Lincoln and on up through JFK. It Makes Sense in Context. Kind of.
  • Idiot Ball: Played for Laughs of course. Seriously, Derek and Hansel in particular are dumber than a bag of hammers. Though Hansel seems to have a few more IQ points than Derek, he's still as much of a ditz because he is way more spaced-out than Derek.
  • Idiot Hero: Derek.
  • Idiot Savant: Derek knows everything about the modelling world and is an expert in many modelling-related skills. He recognizes J.P. Prewitt's hand from a specific catalog in the 70s even though hand modelling isn't Derek's specialty.
  • Informed Attractiveness: Ben Stiller as a model? Owen Wilson?! Chalk it up to Rule of Funny.
  • Insistent Terminology: Merman!
  • Intrepid Reporter: Matilda, who has a special hatred for models.
  • It Is Pronounced "Tro-PAY": Mugatu's new campaign, "Derelicte".
  • It's All About Me: At the start of the film, Derek is a self-absorbed but friendly model.
  • Janitor Impersonation Infiltration: Hansel and Derek.
  • Joisey: At one point, Derek goes to work with his family in the coal mines of South Jersey. The real South Jersey is a coastal plain.
  • Karma Houdini: Maury Ballstein. At the end, he admits to having been in on the child labor conspiracy for almost all of his career. However, he does not seem to have been punished in any way.
    • Presumably he would get immunity in exchange for his testimony. The sequel confirms he asked for relocation in the witness protection program.
  • Lame Comeback: Derek to Hansel leading up to the walk-off challenge.
    Derek: You think that you're too cool for school, but I have a newsflash for you Walter Cronkite... you aren't.
  • Lampshade Hanging: see Only Sane Man below.
  • Laser-Guided Tykebomb: Derek gets brainwashed into this.
  • Love Epiphany: Parodied.
    Derek: There was a moment last night, when she was sandwiched between the two Finnish dwarfs and the Maori tribesmen, where I thought, "Wow, I could really spend the rest of my life with this woman."
  • Malaproper: Derek, of course.
    Derek: Or are you here to tell me what a bad eugoogolizer I am?
    Matilda: A what?
    Derek: A eugoogolizer... one who speaks at funerals. [after a confused look from Matilda] Or did you think I was too stupid to know what a eugoogoly was?
  • Manchurian Agent: Derek, after he gets brainwashed.
  • The Man in the Mirror Talks Back
  • Manipulative Bastard: Mugatu. He offered Derek to participate in a runway show, brainwashing him to kill the Prime Minister of Malaysia so they can maintain child labor in that country. In short, he attempts to make Derek's life miserable.
  • Man on Fire: Brint lights up a cigarette at a gas station causing the exposed gasoline to destroy the station and immolate Derek's model friends.
  • Missing Mom: Derek's mom is dead.
  • Misspelling Out Loud: Used by Derek to explain to Mathilda why he couldn't have been missing for a week:
    Derek: Uh, earth to Mathilda! I was at a day spa. Day. D-A-I-Y-E. Ok?
  • Modeling Poses: Derek has two poses as his signature moves (even though they are the same).
  • Musical Trigger: "Relax" is what turns Derek into a killing machine.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Matilda has one when she realizes that she was partially responsible for driving Derek into retirement.
  • My Hovercraft Is Full of Eels: Derek's grasp of Malay leaves much to be desired.
  • Nice Guy: Derek, in a subversion of the typical bitchy-superstar stereotype, is actually sweet-natured and generous.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Played straight with Derick, who's name is an amalgam of Calvin Klein models Mark Vanderloo and the Johnny Zander. Averted with all of the celebrity cameos, who play themselves.
  • Not So Above It All
    • Matilda is the Only Sane Man in the main cast, until she participates in an orgy. Even more so when she goes on a long description of her clothing while holding Katinka at gunpoint in retaliation for her insulting her fashion sense earlier.
    • Hell, even Mugatu, the only person who recognizes that Derick has exactly one look, follows up Motive Rant by screaming about his piano key necktie as if it's some kind of grand accomplishment.
  • Oh, Crap!: Derek when he realizes that his friends are about to get killed by in a gas station explosion.
  • The Omniscient Council of Vagueness: The round table running the fashion industry.
  • The One Thing I Don't Hate About You: "It's that damned Hansel! He's so hot right now!"
  • Only Sane Man: Part of Mugatu's Motive Rant, a rare case of this applying to the villain.
    "Blue Steel? Ferrari? Le Tigre? They're the same face! Doesn't anyone notice this!? I feel like I'm taking crazy pills!"
    • Matilda also plays this role for the protagonists.
  • Overly Long Gag: The participants during the orgy scene.
    • In a deleted scene, Derek enters the club where Hansel is having an afterparty, passing something like six or seven groups of people just to throw a lame one-liner back at Hansel for an earlier insult. (Part of this scene ends up in the Imagine Spot when the hand model discusses why male models make the perfect assassins.)
  • Outdated Outfit: Mugatu's "Little Cletus" disguise is of what a child in the early 1900s would probably wear. Ironic, considering Mugatu should be keeping up with the latest fashions. Then again, he does seem to be the world's premiere fashion designer. If he can sell trash as fashion then he can get away with Little Cletus.
  • Pachelbel's Canon: Played at the intro of Derelíct.
  • A Party, Also Known as an Orgy
  • Perfectly Cromulent Word: Derek is not an ambiturner. He can't turn left.
  • Phrase Catcher: Hansel. "He's so hot right now." In particular from Mugatu.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: When introducing Derek as a nominee for Model of the Year, the announcer guy enunciates each syllable separately (see page quote). Each syllable also comes from a different speaker. Derek silently counts along to make sure that his name is indeed five syllables.
  • Reality Ensues: When Derek's model friends spray gasoline at the gas station and one of them lights up a cigarette, the station explodes and everyone is killed, except for Derek.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Mugatu's new line that does a high fashion spin on what homeless people wear. Amusingly, it has been done for real by John Galliano and Vivienne Westwood, but the style was intended to be shocking.
  • Right-Hand Cat: Mugatu's right-hand poodle, which looks almost as ridiculous as he does.
  • Running Gag: Every time someone mentions Hansel, Mugatu immediately adds some variation of "He's so hot right now."
  • Say My Name: Hansel yells Derek's name when he pulls his Big Damn Heroes moment to stop Mugatu's plan.
  • Scale Model Destruction: Mugatu shows off a model of a school he's planning to build in Derek Zoolander's honor. Derek gets ticked and destroys it, because he doesn't understand the concept of a model.
    Derek Zoolander: What is this, a center for ants? How can the children learn anything if they can't fit in the building?!.
  • Serious Business: The fashion industry, to the point of involving an Illuminati-esque international conspiracy and political assassination.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story:
    Hansel: So I'm rappelling down Mount Vesuvius when suddenly I slip, and I start to fall. I mean, I'm about to die. Just falling, "Ahhh! Ahhh!" I'll never forget the terror. When suddenly I remember, "Holy shit, Hansel, haven't you been smoking Peyote for six straight days, and couldn't some of this maybe be in your mind?"
    Derek: ...and?
    Hansel: ...it was. I was totally fine. I've never even been to Mount Vesuvius.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Matilda, again.
  • Shout-Out: "Beat It" plays over the walk-off between Derek and Hansel; Derek's brainwashing sequence channels A Clockwork Orange; Derek and Hansel imitate the "Dawn of Man" sequence in 2001: A Space Odyssey, complete with the soundtrack playing Also Sprach Zarathustra; The confrontation between Derek and his manager before he walks for Mugatu refers to The Godfather Part II.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: A minor case when Derek and his roommates try to forget their troubles, as "Wake Me up before You Go-Go" plays (it contains a reference to a yo-yo, which is rival Hansel's thing).
    • However, it plays again as a Triumphant Reprise in the ending with Derek having a family with Matilda, a friend in Hansel, and are all running "The Derek Zoolander Center For Kids Who Can't Read Good And Wanna Learn To Do Other Stuff Good Too", complete with a memorial dedicated to his roommates.
  • Spit Take: Hilariously overdone by Mugatu.
    "Todd! Were you not aware that I get farty and bloated with a foamy latte?!"
  • This Is What the Building Will Look Like: Even if they can't fit inside the building.
  • This Looks Like a Job for Aquaman: Only a male model has the skills to make a perfect assassin, and only Derek's "Magnum" look (or is it "Blue Steel"?) can stop them!
  • Too Dumb to Live: Derek's model friends who at a gas station start spraying gasoline at each other and then, Brint lights up a cigarette. Even Derek recognizes this as a very stupid decision and tries to stop them but is too late.
  • Too Kinky to Torture: Katinka only looks excited when pistol-whipped by Matilda.
  • Training Montage: Derek's training to be an assassin.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Mugatu gets a pretty spectacular one at the end, during which he ends up pointing out that contrary to what everyone thinks, Derek's repertoire is somewhat limited:
    "Who cares about Derek Zoolander anyway? The man has only one look for Christ's sake! Blue Steel? Ferrari? Le Tigre? They're the same face! Doesn't anyone notice this?! I feel like I'm taking crazy pills! I invented the piano key necktie! I invented it! What have you done, Derek?! Nothing! You've got nothing! NOTHING!"
  • Weaksauce Weakness: Derek can't turn left (until the climax).
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Derek temporarily retires from modeling and tries to join his dad and brother in the mining field. It doesn't go over well.
    • When Zoolander reveals Magnum, however (Derek's father is watching the fashion show at bar), his dad is genuinely amazed and announces to the whole bar 'That's my son!'
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: What happened to the shadowy evil council who have been killing world leaders for decades? All that's shown is Mugatu, so the fate of the others is unclear.
    • We Never get to see what J.P. Prewett's fate was, either (in a deleted scene he became a teacher at Derick's school).

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