Movie Review: Tropic Thunder

These are the dudes, playing the dudes, playing the other dudes.

Let me start by saying that the trailer for this film did it absolutely no justice.

I had probably first heard about Tropic Thunder in Entertainment Weekly a few months ago, and at the time I was most impressed with its high caliber and diverse star power. I can’t say I was dying to see it, but it was definitely something I planned to look out for. During The Dark Knight, I first saw the trailer for it, and while I was definitely amused, I think at that point I had officially decided it would be a renter. Boy, I’m glad I didn’t wait that long.

Last night, Been Bad’s very own Ricky Lorenzo proposed that we see the 9:10 PM showing of Tropic Thunder. It seemed like a good enough idea, as I planned on seeing it eventually, so off we went.

The premise is this: A group of ragtag actors; an action star, a comedian, a method actor, a rapper-turned-actor, and a no-name extra are filming the most expensive Vietnam War film in history, and failing miserably. With the studio executive Les Grossman, impressively played by Tom Cruise, breathing down the director’s neck about what’s happening with his money, Vietnam vet Fourleaf Tayback (Nick Nolte) believes drastic measures must be taken. He and director Damien Cockburn plan to get an authentic approach to their film by planting the actors in the middle of the Vietnam jungle and scaring them with some strategically placed explosives. And thats when things go awry.

Surprisingly, as hokey as the whole thing sounds, it holds up during the film surprisingly well, and it actually comes off as a pretty damn cool story. It’s nice to have something off-the-wall in a world where comedy is soggy with the drama-coms of Apatow. The characters are obviously caricatures, but are incredibly endearing despite their exaggerated flaws and egos. The cinematography lends A LOT to the humor, and believe me when I say that. I don’t want to give away too much, but there’s a scene in which an animal attacks that’s a perfect example of what I’m saying.

To be honest, I had no idea that Ben Stiller co-wrote and directed this film. When his name popped up at the end of the movie, I’m almost positive I had a shocked expression on my face. I am totally impressed with his effort on this movie. I haven’t seen Reality Bites, but I wasn’t very impressed with Zoolander, which had its moments, but really wasn’t anything special. This is special.

The most enjoyable part of this film has to be the performances. Everyone was great, especially Robert Downey Jr. Who the hell knew he could be that funny? Sure, he’s sarcastically funny in interviews, and he was similarly funny in Iron Man, but Tropic Thunder really allowed him flex his funny bone. There are several moments in the film where even a simple look or gesture he made could evoke laughter, and that’s a quality a lot of today’s professional comic actors don’t even have. Ben Stiller was pretty much the same as usual, which is good, but overall he seemed to be playing himself, playing an action star. Nothing too far outside the box for him, but still funny. Jack Black was great, especially during the faux-trailers during the beginning. You’ll have to see it to see what I mean, but it’s a spot-on parody of a certain fat-suit wearing SNL alumni. Jay Baruchel, who you may recognize from the short-lived Fox show Undeclared, or Knocked Up, was also a strong point as the straight-man in a group full of self-important actors. Brandon Jackson and Nick Nolte also carried their roles completely believably.

By now, I’m sure everyone has heard about the controversy this film has caused due to its “insensitive portrayal of the mentally handicapped” and “blackface routine.” Let me just say, if you’re offended by this movie, you’re an idiot. Yeah, I said it. If you don’t like it, send me hatemail, I like it. Not only are you an idiot, but you’re completely missing the point. I’m as sympathetic as the next guy to the handicapped, and I wouldn’t consider myself a racist either, but I laughed, and I laughed fucking hard. This movie isn’t trying to oppress anyone, it’s merely a satire of actors and the lengths they will go to portray a character. The joke is always on the actors. Maybe if you actually see the movie you’ll realize that. Find something real to complain about, like the war in Iraq, or gas prices. Leave comedy alone, and stop being so damn self-righteous.

Anyway, rant aside, Tropic Thunder is hysterical. Not only is it the best comedy since Superbad, but it’s one of the best films this year. If you’re thinking about going to see it, stop thinking and go. It’s funnier than you think.

9 out of 10

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~ by Alex Stone on August 19, 2008.

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