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Zoolander: The Blue Steelbook Blu-ray + Digital HD Review

Zoolander (2001) movie poster Zoolander

Theatrical Release: September 28, 2001 / Running Time: 90 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: Ben Stiller / Writers: Drake Sather, Ben Stiller (story, character & screenplay); John Hamburg (screenplay)

Cast: Ben Stiller (Derek Zoolander), Owen Wilson (Hansel), Christine Taylor (Matilda Jeffries), Will Ferrell (Mugatu/Jacob Moogberg), Milla Jovovich (Katinka), Jerry Stiller (Maury Ballstein), David Duchovny (J.P. Prewitt), Jon Voight (Larry Zoolander), Judah Friedlander (Scrappy Zoolander), Nathan Lee Graham (Todd), Alexandre Manning (Brint), Asio Highsmith (Rufus), Alexander Skarsgεrd (Meekus), Matt Levin (Archie), Justin Theroux (Evil DJ), Andy Dick (Olga the Masseuse), Woodrow Asai (Prime Minister of Malaysia Hassan), Andrew Wilson (Hansel's Corner Guy), James Marsden (John Wilkes Booth), Patton Oswalt (Monkey Photographer), Godfrey (Janitor Derek), Taj Crown (Janitor Hansel), Vince Vaughn (Luke Zoolander - uncredited) / As Themselves: Donald Trump, Christian Slater, Tom Ford, Cuba Gooding Jr., Steve Kmetko, Tommy Hilfiger, Natalie Portman, Fabio, Lenny Kravitz, Gwen Stefani, Heidi Klum, DJ Mark Ronson, Paris Hilton, David Bowie, Tyson Beckford, Fred Durst, Lance Bass, Lil' Kim, Garry Shandling, Stephen Dorff, Sandra Bernhard, Claudia Schiffer, Veronica Webb, Lukas Haas, Carmen Kass, Frankie Rayder, Little Kingz / As Themselves (Uncredited): Victoria Beckham, Emma Bunton, Winona Ryder, Gavin Rossdale, Melania Trump, Donatella Versace, Billy Zane

Buy Zoolander: The Blue Steelbook exclusively at Walmart
Buy Zoolander from Amazon.com: DVD • Instant Video

Of all the months to release a comedy film, September 2001 seems like the worst on record. That was when Zoolander opened in theaters, just seventeen days after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. Theoretically, America was ready to laugh again. "Saturday Night Live" would launch its 27th season the following day with Mayor Rudy Giuliani and New York City's firefighters and police officer at its opening.
But, even if enough time had passed to enable Zoolander to digitally remove the Twin Towers from a shot (the first of numerous films to make 9/11-related edits), it remained a strange and challenging time. And the movie wound up not being the big hit you might have foreseen coming Ben Stiller's way a year after Meet the Parents.

After grossing $45 million domestically (a decent sum that adjusts to $68.5 M today when accounting for inflation), Zoolander evidently performed well on home video. Just not well enough to make this year's untimely sequel of much interest to the general public.

Stiller's first feature film as writer and third as director, Zoolander stars the comedian as Derek Zoolander, an airheaded male model he originated in a couple of sketches made for the VH1 Fashion Awards in 1996 and 1997. A three-time winner of Male Model of the Year, Zoolander is walking proof that you don't need much more than good looks to succeed in his profession. He has a few similar facial expressions he relies upon, the signature of which he calls "Blue Steel."

Billy Zane has the back of male model Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller).

With Zoolander, what you see is what you get, which makes him an easy target for the eccentric fashion designer Mugatu (Will Ferrell), who needs someone to assassinate Malaysia's new prime minister whose hard stance against child labor poses a threat for Mugatu's manufacturing processes.

Zoolander misses a chance to collect his fourth straight Male Model of the Year award, losing to cocky hotshot Hansel (Owen Wilson) in embarrassing fashion. Then, Zoolander loses his three fellow male model roommates in a fiery gas station accident. With that, Zoolander announces his retirement and tries to patch things up with his family of coal miners (father played by Jon Voight, brother by a silent Vince Vaughn). But Zoolander comes out of retirement when Mugatu finally hires him for the first time. Alas, at a day spa, the model is brainwashed for a week and programmed to kill Malaysia's new leader.

Zoolander grows wise to this plan with help from a Time magazine reporter (Christine Taylor, Stiller's wife since 2000) and, after getting shown up in a walk-off and burying the hatchet, Hansel.

Eccentric fashion designer Mugatu (Will Ferrell) sees Zoolander as an easily brainwashed solution to his problem with the new prime minister of Malaysia.

Zoolander is chock-full of celebrities making cameos as themselves. From fashion icons like Tommy Hilfiger and Tom Ford and models like Heidi Klum and Fabio to famous hyphenates like Donald Trump and Paris Hilton and entertainers as varied as Billy Zane,
Natalie Portman, David Bowie, and Fred Durst, Zoolander works itself into countless IMDb filmographies. Most of these appearances have some comedic value and sell the illusion of Derek Zoolander as this important, well-known figure who is at ease on a red carpet.

The movie proceeds to lean heavily on the notion that Zoolander is one shallow individual, a joke that grows old in a hurry. Fortunately, the script which credits Stiller, the character's co-creator Drake Sather (who passed away in 2004), and the Meet the Parents trilogy's John Hamburg, packs enough ideas into the 90-minute runtime to keep things brisk and diverting. The film may be something of a mixed bag, but you can see it honing the directing skills and ambition that Stiller really mastered on his follow-up effort, Tropic Thunder, which he has yet to best behind the camera.

Last December in anticipation of Zoolander 2's theatrical debut, Zoolander was revisited in The Blue Steelbook, a Walmart-exclusive Blu-ray + Digital HD edition with collectible packaging, a hairband wig, and movie cash towards seeing the sequel. With the sequel's Blu-ray release just around the corner, I knew I had to revisit the original now.

It is worth noting that the film's original end credits have been replaced with alternate ones featuring Mugatu dancing that were previously presented as a bonus feature in a somewhat choppy fashion. It's pretty strange and slightly disappointing. Thanks to Matt for writing in to point this out to me!

Zoolander: The Blue Steelbook Blu-ray Disc + Digital HD cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

2.40:1 Widescreen
5.1 DTS-HD MA (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (French, Spanish, Portuguese)
Subtitles: English, English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish, Portuguese
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled
Suggested Retail Price: $26.99
Release Date: December 1, 2015 (Walmart exclusive)
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (BD-50)
Steelbook
Also available on DVD ($5.00 SRP; repackaged May 26, 2015) and Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

Zoolander is evidently old enough to not look like a new film anymore. Still, the Blu-ray's 2.40:1 presentation seems true to the original film presentation and does not raise any real concerns. Similarly, the 5.1 DTS-HD master audio soundtrack has as much life to it as you'd like.

Justin Theroux and Owen Wilson rehearse their breakdance fight. The only HD and brand new bonus feature shows us an alternate version of Zoolander's brainwashing primarily with storyboards.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

At first glance, it might seem like the Blu-ray is pretty light on extras with just three listings, but one of those holds much, much more.

First up, we get an audio commentary by writer-director-star Ben Stiller and his co-writers Drake Sather and John Hamburg.
Their screen-specific chat isn't as funny as you might expect, but it is informative as they assign credit for ideas, acknowledge things that didn't work and got cut, and share insight into the involvement of many of the actors and cameo-making celebrities.

Next, "A Really, Really, Really Cool Teaser for Zoolander 2" (HD) proves to be merely a 58-second behind-the-scenes look at the underperforming sequel.

Zoolander's Closet holds the bulk and the remainder of the on-disc bonuses, all of it presented in standard definition unless noted.

First up, "Breakdance Fight Rehearsal" (4:29) shows us Justin Theroux, Owen Wilson, and their stuntmen stand-ins practicing their moves for a camera-wielding Stiller.

"Alternate Brainwashing Scene" (4:35, HD) plays sound over full-color storyboards, showing us a creative variation.

Winona Ryder chats up Hansel in this deleted scene. Mugatu is just a kid with a lollipop in this outtake. Derek Zoolander reminds himself not to shave in the 1996 VH1 Fashion Awards sketch that introduced the character.

Five deleted scenes run 7 minutes and 46 seconds. They include more of the VH1 red carpet, more Winona Ryder, and more of Zoolander getting past bouncers to enter the most exclusive room of a nightclub. The cuts are presented with optional commentary by a solo and soft-spoken Stiller.

Five extended scenes (8:00) include a better look at Matilda's colleague's obsession with her, among other bits. These too are presented with Stiller commentary.

"Outtakes" (6:34) gives us bloopers, unused ad libs, and miscellaneous cast fun.

Probably the highlight among the bonus features are two VH1 Fashion Awards sketches (6:42) that give us the fascinating and amusing origin of Derek Zoolander. The first, from 1996, lets Zoolander show off his looks at cat walk practice, while the second (from 1997) talks up the Derek Zoolander University, where male models are trained.

Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller) holds a globe in his globalization PSA. Derek Zoolander shows off his colorful home (which is not the one we see in the film) in this short MTV Cribs sketch. Ben Stiller shares the screen with "the real Derek Zoolander" in this interstitial.

A music video for The Wiseguys' "Start the Commotion" (4:48) makes extensive use of footage from the film

and perhaps some shot just for it, along with some looks at the band.

Six short PSAs (2:01) let Derek Zoolander share his wisdom on the topics of racism, dating, globalization, world hunger, literacy, and education.

From "MTV Cribs" come three short clips (1:33) of Zoolander showing off his home.

Six more short clips fall under the heading "Interstitials" (2:49). The first three of these find Stiller and Zoolander doing a joint interview via split-screen magic, while the others let Mugatu and Matilda make appearances.

The Blu-ray's menu montage is set to Zoolander's trigger song, a remix of Frankie Goes to Hollywood's "Relax." The disc supports bookmarks, but does not resume unfinished playback.

In a rare instance where a film lends to creative packaging, the Blue Steelbook gives us an artistic rendering of Zoolander's Blue Steel expression on a Steelbook that is indeed blue all over. Inside, we find additional artwork as well as an insert that was good for $8.00 towards a Zoolander 2 showing (now expired) and whose back gave you a code for a digital HD version of the movie on Vudu (still good through December 2017). While in shrinkwrap, the steelbook is held in front of a thicker cardboard box which holds a patterned headband with tufts of Zoolander hair atop allowing you to try your best Blue Steel.

The late David Bowie officiates a walk-off between former Male Model of the Year Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller) and reigning one Hansel (Owen Wilson).

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Zoolander may not rank among my favorite Ben Stiller comedies, but the movie has some fun moments. Fifteen years after its release, it is becoming easier to appreciate as a diverting PG-13 comedy, belonging to a class that has grown scarce in the years since. The Blue Steelbook edition may not be worth going out of your way to buy at Walmart, but it's your only option now. It's also an inspired set with good bonus features that is reasonably priced and would look nice on your shelf, should you enjoy the movie enough to own it.

Buy Zoolander: The Blue Steelbook exclusively at Walmart

Buy Zoolander from Amazon.com: DVD • Instant Video

Related Reviews:
Directed by Ben Stiller: Zoolander 2 • Tropic Thunder • The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Ben Stiller: Night at the Museum • The Royal Tenenbaums • The Heartbreak Kid • Heavyweights
Owen Wilson: Shanghai Noon & Shanghai Knights | Christine Taylor: Hey Dude: Season 1
Will Ferrell: Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy • Elf • A Night at the Roxbury • Step Brothers • Daddy's Home
Written by John Hamburg: I Love You, Man
New to Disc: The Jim Gaffigan Show: Season One • Zapped! • Top Gun: 30th Anniversary Steelbook

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Reviewed May 20, 2016.



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