Filming took place from April to July 2015, in Rome, Italy. The film was released on February 12, 2016, by Paramount Pictures to generally negative reviews from critics and earned $56 million against a $55 million budget.
At Fashion Interpol, Valentina Valencia examines the expressions of recently assassinated pop singers' last images and believes they match Derek Zoolander's trademark look, "Blue Steel". A flashback reveals that the Derek Zoolander Center For Kids Who Can't Read Good collapsed, killing Matilda Jeffries and injuring Hansel McDonald. Derek later lost custody of his son, Derek Zoolander Jr., and announced his retirement from modeling and subsequent reclusion.
Derek now lives alone in "extreme northern" New Jersey. Billy Zane visits and gives him an invitation to the House of Atoz fashion show by Alexanya Atoz, and persuades him to return to a regular lifestyle in order to regain custody of his son. In the "uncharted Malibu territories", Hansel returns to his home after dinner and is informed by his orgy that they are all pregnant and that he is the father. He is later given the same invitation by Zane. After reuniting, Derek and Hansel are tracked down by Valentina, who asks them to help Interpol uncover who is behind the systematic assassinations.
At the fashion show, Derek and Hansel are surprised to find that the ever-changing fashion world is now dominated by the likes of Don Atari and the non-binary All. They are put on the runway in "Old" and "Lame" outfits and are doused by a large bucket of prunes. Afterwards, Alexanya congratulates them on their performance.
With Valentina's help, Derek discovers his son is residing at a local orphanage. They find him, but Derek is distraught by his son's obesity. After Matilda's ghost asks him to protect their son, Hansel convinces Derek to accept Derek Jr. After meeting the Headmaster, Derek takes his son around Rome. However, Derek Jr. becomes disgruntled with his father and returns to the orphanage. Hansel receives an anonymous call, requesting that he travel to St. Peter's Basilica at midnight. He, Derek, and Valentina go to the church and meet with Sting, who tells them the tale of Adam and Eve and the little-known Steve, who many rockstars have died to protect. It is said that Steve is the common ancestor of all models and that he and his closest descendant (Derek Jr.) hold the bloodline of the Fountain of Youth.
Derek returns to the orphanage, only to find it in disrepair and his son and the Headmaster gone. He travels to Jacobim Mugatu's isolated prison, but is captured, while Mugatu escapes. Mugatu leaves on a helicopter while Hansel stows away by hiding on top of the rotor. Derek and Valentina swim back to Rome while Hansel infiltrates the House of Atoz. He witnesses Mugatu reuniting with Alexanya and killing Don Atari. Hansel finds Derek Jr. imprisoned and reunites with Derek and Valentina at the IncrediBALL. They enter a bathhouse through a rear entrance and witness Derek Jr. strapped to a table.
Mugatu and many of the world's fashion designers prepare to cut out Derek Jr.'s heart and consume his blood, believing it to grant them eternal youth as it contains the blood of Steve. Derek, Hansel, and Valentina stop Mugatu from proceeding and he reveals that he brought together the world's fashion designers to kill them as revenge for leaving him imprisoned. Alexanya, who is actually Katinka Ingaborgovinananananana, attacks Valentina, while Mugatu tells Derek that he was behind the destruction of his Center by hiring the construction crew to build a faulty base. He then throws an explosive towards the lava. Derek manages to stop it with "Magnum", but he struggles to keep it suspended in mid-air. Sting arrives and reveals that he is Hansel's father, and they, along with Derek Jr. releasing the look, "El Niño", successfully hurl the explosive back at Mugatu, killing him. Derek Jr. forgives his father for his mother's death and Derek and Valentina confess their love for each other. Matilda's ghost gives them her blessing and says that Mugatu live-streamed the event.
Six months later, Derek and Hansel have returned to modeling. Derek and Valentina have a daughter named Darlene, while Derek Jr. becomes the next model and now in a relationship with Malala Yousafzai. Hansel returns to living with his orgy and is now the father of 10 children.
In December 2008, Stiller confirmed that he wanted to make a sequel to Zoolander, saying: "I've been trying to get Zoolander 2 together and we've had a few scripts. I feel that is the sequel I really would like to do some day because I like the original and I would make sure it was something new and worthy of it first." When interviewed on the May 15, 2009 episode of Friday Night with Jonathan Ross, Stiller said he was looking at a number of scripts. By February 2010, Justin Theroux, who also co-wrote Tropic Thunder with Stiller, was hired to write and direct the sequel. By the following month, Stiller confirmed he would be co-writing the script, stating, "We're in the process of getting a script written, so it's in the early stages. But yeah, it's going to happen." At some later, unspecified point, Stiller had taken over as director. On the December 17, 2010 episode of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Owen Wilson said a Zoolander sequel would likely be made, tentatively titled Twolander.
In January 2011, Stiller confirmed that the script had been completed, and described the plot: "It's ten years later and most of it is set in Europe... it's basically Derek and Hansel... though the last movie ended on a happy note a lot of things have happened in the meantime. Their lives have changed and they’re not really relevant anymore. It's a new world for them. Will Ferrell is written into the script and he's expressed interest in doing it. I think Mugatu is an integral part of the Zoolander story, so yes, he features in a big way." In July 2012, Stiller described a difficult development process: "We have a script, as we've had for a little while, and [the film] is not quite coming together right now but I hope it does. I would like to do it at some point in the future." In September 2014, Ferrell said of the sequel, "We are actually supposed to do a read-through of a sequel script soon, and Mugatu is a part of it."
By November 20, 2014, Penélope Cruz had joined the cast, and by January 29, 2015, Christine Taylor was confirmed to reprise her role as Matilda Jeffries. By February 9, 2015, it was announced filming was set to commence at Rome's Cinecittà studios in the spring of 2015. On March 10, 2015, Stiller and Wilson appeared at the Paris Fashion Week in character as Derek Zoolander and Hansel McDonald. On April 13, 2015, it was revealed Cyrus Arnold had been cast as Zoolander's son. On April 21, 2015, Fred Armisen joined the cast. That same month, Lewis Hamilton and Olivia Munn were spotted filming scenes at a fashion show. In May 2015, Stiller revealed via Instagram the casting of Kyle Mooney, Beck Bennett, and Nathan Lee Graham.
Principal photography began on April 7, 2015, and ended on July 13, 2015. The film was shot at Cinecittà studios in Rome, Italy.
Paramount partnered with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles to feature Derek Zoolander on their advertising campaign for the Fiat 500X. Ben Stiller and Penélope Cruz also appeared in character in the February 2016 issue of Vogue.
Zoolander 2 was released in theaters on February 12, 2016. The world premiere was held in London, England on February 6, 2016, and the North American premiere was held in New York City on February 9, 2016. During the London premiere, Stiller set the Guinness World Record for the longest selfie stick, at 8.56 meters (28 feet, 1 inch) tall.
Zoolander 2 grossed $28.8 million in the U.S. and Canada and $27.1 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $56 million against a budget of $50 million.
In the United States and Canada, pre-release tracking suggested the film would gross $17–20 million from 3,300 theaters in its opening weekend, trailing fellow newcomer Deadpool ($55–65 million projection) but similar to other newcomer How to Be Single. The film made $750,000 from its Thursday night previews and $4.9 million on its first day. It went on to gross $14 million in its opening weekend, finishing fourth at the box office, behind Deadpool ($132.8 million), Kung Fu Panda 3 ($19.8 million), and How to Be Single ($17.9 million). In its second weekend, the film grossed $5.5 million (a 60.3% drop), finishing seventh at the box office.
Rotten Tomatoes, a review aggregator, reports that 23% of 199 surveyed critics gave the film a positive review; the average rating is 4.5/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Zoolander No. 2 has more celebrity cameos than laughs – and its meager handful of memorable gags outnumbers the few worthwhile ideas discernible in its scattershot rehash of a script." On Metacritic, the film has a score of 34 out of 100 based on 42 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "C+" on an A+ to F scale, the same grade earned by its predecessor.