Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Tropic Thunder (2008) Review

Tropic Thunder
I’m a movie within a movie making fun of other movies!!!

Tropic Thunder is a movie that had a rough path on its way to being appreciated by me. The trailers didn’t seem all that funny except for a few bits, and on my first viewing I wasn’t in the best mood. So I wasn’t all too impressed by the movie despite glowing reviews about how smart and clever it was. Then at one point I said to myself, “how about I give this movie another shot.” Before I know it, I’m howling with laughter at stuff I barely recognized on the first showing. It just goes to show you that first impressions aren’t always right.

Plot Synopsis: After sitting through a few fake trailers for the main characters (all funny in their own ways, with one eerily similar to Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence’s careers), we are then dropped on the set of the supposedly truthful Vietnam movie "Tropic Thunder". With a ballooning budget, shooting behind schedule, an unstable, foul mouthed producer (just wait till you see who plays him), and actors' egos clashing with each other, the film's director Damien Cockburn gets an idea that could save the movie. Four Leaf Tayback, the man who wrote the book which the movie is based on, tells Damien to drop the actors into the real and wild jungle to give the movie that gritty down to earth feel. Things don’t go as planned and the actors must fight off a band of real Vietnamese soldiers.


The first thing I must commend about Tropic Thunder is its incredibly star-studded cast. Everyone in it seems to be having a blast with the characters, whether it’s Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Brandon T. Jackson, Steve Coogan, Nick Nolte, or Matthew McConaughey. The standouts though are Danny McBride, Tom Cruise, and Robert Downey Jr. McBride is proving himself to be the go-to guy for wacky, off-the-wall supporting characters with this and Pineapple Express, as he gleefully plays the trigger-happy demolition technician Cody who idolizes Nolte’s Four Leaf. And is it just me, or is Downey getting one of the best comebacks for an actor after Iron Man and this? Playing Kirk Lazarus, an Australian method actor who gets surgery to become the African American sergeant, he completely immerses himself in the role and has some hilarious banter with the “real” African American of the group Alpa Chino (Brandon T. Jackson), a rapper turned actor who criticizes his portrayal of black people. As far as the surprise actor goes, well I won’t spoil it, but I guarantee this movie will give you a newfound appreciation for him. If there were one actor that I thought was a little “off” it would be Stiller. He’s certainly not bad as action star Tugg Speedman (he did bulk up a lot for the role), but he doesn’t strike me as the muscle bound action star type.


The film’s script, by Stiller, Justin Theroux, and Etan Cohen, is remarkable at poking fun at many aspects of the Hollywood film industry and referencing other war movies. Movies such as Platoon, Saving Private Ryan, and Apocalypse Now get some of their most memorable moments inserted into the action with hilarious effect. Then there are jokes about money hungry studio executives, audience appreciation for lowbrow fart humor, etc. It doesn’t exactly meticulously disect the industry with interesting incites ala The Player, but that doesn’t make it less funny with it's friendly jabs. What I did find particularly impressive was how well Stiller the director was able to make the movie not just enjoyable as a comedy but also as an action film. The opening and closing set pieces are especially noteworthy and display how Stiller can still create intense and stylistic action scenes even when playing alongside the comedy and absurdity going on.

I guarantee that whether you are a movie buff or just a casual filmgoer, you will find something to like in Tropic Thunder. The star studded cast and variety of humor makes sure that there’s something for everyone to enjoy.


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