Tuesday, August 19, 2008
#51: Tropic Thunder
Directed by Ben Stiller
Written by Ben Stiller, Justin Theroux and Etan Cohen
Released August 13, 2008
You need no other reason than Robert Downey Jr.'s performance as Australian method actor Kirk Lazarus to see Ben Stiller's hilarious Tropic Thunder. After the success of Iron Man, Downey was on top of the world; this performance, as an actor lost inside of his role as the African American leader of a platoon of a Vietnam-movie-within-a-movie, sends him into the stratosphere.
If his performance was all this comedy had going for it, it would be worth the price of admission. Luckily, there is so much more going on here, from the spot-on fake previews before the opening credits (Jack Black's scatological The Fattys: Fart 2 being the most perfect lambasting of terrible Eddie Murphy-style comedies) to the incredible ensemble cast that brings out two very surprising performances from Tom Cruise and Matthew McConaughey.
The entire movie is pretty much the ballsiest comedy since... hell, I can't even tell you a movie in recent memory with the audacity and balls that Tropic Thunder has on display. The closest analogy I can draw is that it comes from the same well of bravery that inspired someone like Chris Rock when he wrote his famous "I hate N*****s" routine, or George Carlin's "7 Words You Can't Say on TV." Basically, "Damn your sensibilites, I'm getting laughs here, at any cost." Endangered species are murdered. Crew members explode violently. Cruise spews more curse words than he has in his entire career. Even Nick Nolte's insanity is wrangled and used to great effect.
I'm sure you know the plot by now: four pampered stars (joined by Jay Baruchel as the straight man) are dropped off alone into the jungle to inspire them to new performance heights while filming a Vietnam drama. Little do they know, the war going on around them (they are under attack by a local and very deadly drug cartel) is actually real. Luckily, what could have been just a one-joke movie quickly spins out of control and pretty much devolves -- in a good way -- into near complete insanity.
Tropic Thunder is a movie about crazy people, seemingly made by crazy people. The craziest thing of all is how much money was spent to make it (the budget is rumored to be more than $150 million). While assembling this cast certainly cost a chunk of change, you can really see a lot of that money up there on the screen, with explosive action set pieces and the kind of top notch cinematography (John Toll, director of photography of The Thin Red Line and Gone Baby Gone) that you'd normally find in the kind of films Tropic Thunder lampoons.
Be forewarned, though: this movie is for the kind of people who know the movie industry well enough to understand why things like the controversial use of "retard" and Downey's "never go full retard" acting lesson to Stiller AREN'T MAKING FUN OF THE DISABLED. They are making fun of Hollywood, actors and their pretentious attempts to win awards and accolades by making self-important movies that manage to dehumanize the very afflicted they think they're honoring.
To accuse Stiller and friends of anything otherwise is pretty re--.... ridiculous.
For more on Tropic Thunder:
- Movie information at IMDB and Wikipedia
- Check out the official site.
The Tropic Thunder trailer you've probably seen a thousand times: