Zoolander (12)

Review by Jack Foley

BEN Stiller writes, directs and stars in this unattractive catwalk comedy about a dim-witted male model who becomes involved in the assassination of the President of Malaysia while trying to discover the true meaning of life.

Based on a spoof supermodel creation from the 1996 VH1/Vogue fashion awards, Zoolander sets itself up as a type of Austin Powers-like pastiche of the fashion industry but falls flat on its face amid an avalanche of unfunny and braindead jokes.

Stiller, in particular, frustrates as the central character, complete with an annoying voice and quirky mannerisms (gone is the manic energy which made his winning turns in There's Something About Mary and Meet The Parents so successful). His Derek Zoolander comes complete with a one-look pose (he is perfecting his latest for a frenzy-like media), an inability to turn left and a curious inability to say anything remotely interesting.

And while the actor may argue that this is supposed to be playing up to our prejudices about models (and male ones in particular), the joke is over-played and, quite frankly, frustrating, making Stiller's moments on screen - and the movie as a whole - somewhat tedious viewing.

The film is occasionally lifted from its stupidity by Owen Wilson, who steals all of the best moments as Zoolander's rival, Hansel, and by a host of cameos from the likes of David Duchovny, Vince Vaughn, Billy Zane, John Voight, Christian Slater and David Bowie.

But these alone cannot save the movie, particularly as for every character which works; there is another just waiting to be discovered who doesn't. Will Ferrell, as evil genius Mugatu (trying to assume the Dr Evil guise) is especially grating, while Milla Jovovich (who seems to be making a career out of bad movie choices of late) and Christine Taylor (Stiller's real life wife) fail to register any sort of impression at all.

Anyone anticipating something on a par with Austin Powers or Stiller's recent work is likely to be sorely disappointed. This, stripped bare, is more a case of the 'emperor's new clothes' than anything vogue.