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mellafe in passthepopcorn

#62: TROPIC THUNDER

NO ART


Tropic Thunder
D: Ben Stiller
Robert Downey Jr., Jack Black, Ben Stiller

Through a series of freak occurrences, a group of actors shooting a big-budget war movie are forced to become the soldiers they are portraying.


REVIEWS

mouseykins1
RATING: 4.5 buckets
REVIEW: Good news, everyone! Ben Stiller is still funny. I know, I was a little surprised too. After mostly doing Dodgeballs and Along Came Pollys for the last five years, you would think that he has just become a shell of his former hilarious self (although I suppose Tony Wonder and possibly his part in Anchorman would contradict this). Tropic Thunder, thank god, shows that Stiller has still got it, and he has both the comedic acting chops and the directing skills to make a fucking funny movie.

With the return of Zoolander-esque Stiller comes the return of really good satire. Unlike Hot Fuzz, a film that lovingly mocked the action genre, Tropic Thunder tries to grab war movies, actors, and pretty much all of Hollywood by the groin and never let go. Does it succeed? Partly. Some of it is spot-on (the fake Access Hollywood segment is amazingly realistic, right down to the Tyra Banks clip), while some of it doesn't quite follow through. For instance, I would love for Robert Downey Jr's eyebrow-raising performance as Kirk Lazarus/Sgt. Osiris to have dug a little deeper into the whitewashing and undercurrent of racism apparent in Hollywood these days, but it seems like the writers didn't want to go to that level. They went pretty far, but not quite far enough to make the bold statements that they easily could have.

The film's biggest strength is its characters. Honestly, I could probably watch five hours of Kirk Lazarus, Alpa Chino (Brandon T. Jackson), Tugg Speedman (Stiller), and Jeff Portnoy (Jack Black) being total idiots in the middle of a jungle. Thankfully, they avoid being the annoying kind of stupid, and there are characters like Kevin Sandusky (the surprisingly great Jay Baruchel; if he doesn't go places after this, I will be seriously disappointed) to anchor the film and keep the other guys from getting killed.

In terms of acting, this is easily Robert Downey Jr's movie. The whole cast is good (even Jack Black, who did a great job of making some really filthy lines into comedy gold), but while Downey definitely doesn't chew scenery, he's the most thoroughly funny part of the film. Half of the hilarity just comes from the looks he gives. I've heard some people accuse RDJ of essentially playing himself in every role, but even if that were remotely true for Tropic Thunder, you can't deny that the things he can show with a glazed stare or stupid smile is proof of him being pretty talented dude. Films like this serve as a painful reminder of all the wonderful RDJ-y goodness we could have gotten had he not been fucked over by addiction and legal troubles.

But enough about my current actor crush (and for my fellow RDJ fans, watch for the Chaplin reference; you should know it when you see it): Tropic Thunder is a good movie. Maybe it's not a great movie, but in the realm of comedies, it does a pretty nice job of bringing the lolz and actually being interesting as a film. It also works as an action film (man, those are some pretty explosions), and despite being parodies of both Hollywood types and Vietnam War guys, the characters are well-developed. Sure, they're almost all assholes, but I still ended up caring about whether or not their sorry asses were saved in the end.

Oh, and if you're interested in seeing the film, avoid the trailers, clips, and other promotional videos as much as possible. I'm not going to say that most of the funny stuff was in the trailers, but your laugh-per-minute average will be greatly increased if you don't already know some of the best parts.

FAVORITE SCENE: Lazarus, Chino, Portnoy, and Sandusky reminiscing about the stuff they miss at home.
FAVORITE LINE: "...Fuck it, I'll deal with you later."



rhymeswithpork
RATING: 3.5 buckets
REVIEW: Tropic Thunder's almost too brilliant cast shines in a sharply witty, but poorly paced satire. The movie has plenty of laughs to make up for the bits that drag, though, and Tom Cruise and newcomer Brandon Soo Hoo (in a breakout roll as a pint-size heroin lord) are standouts in an impeccable ensemble. The story follows four over-coddled, blowhard stars and one naïve acting newbie on their trek through the Southeast Asian jungle. The actors believe they are shooting an epic war movie "guerrilla style" but through a series of mishaps, they have actually wandered, unsupervised, into The Golden Circle and angered a nearby drug cartel. Hilarity, as they say, ensues. Overall, I found Tropic Thunde very enjoyable. Although it's no Zoolander, Ben Stiller's latest venture in the director's chair is definitely part of the cream of the summer crop.



TRIVIA
- The poster for "The Fatties" behind Jeff Portnoy (Jack Black) in the trailer features the names of a few of the film's actual crew members: costume designer Marlene Stewart, editor Greg Hayden, director of photography John Toll, and screenwriter Justin Theroux. In addition, the poster contains the DreamWorks Pictures logo, the Dolby Stereo logo, and a fictional composite of several MPAA ratings (reading "PG - Parental Guidance - under 11 requires accompanying parent or guardian").

- The title is a play on "Tropic Lightning," nickname of the 25th Infantry Division which did see action in Vietnam.

- "Fats" Portnoy was written with Jack Black in mind.



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