Directed by Ben Stiller
Produced by Ben Stiller, Stuart Confeld & Eric McLeod
Screenplay written by Ben Stiller, Justin Theroux & Etan Cohen
Based on a story by Ben Stiller and Justin Theroux
Ben Stiller is a hit-or-miss guy for me. When he’s funny, I think he’s very funny. I liked him in “Mystery Men” “Dodgeball” “Night In The Museum” and thought he was out and out hysterically funny in “Meet The Parents”. But when he’s not funny I sit there like a meatloaf with no gravy and wonder when the comedy is going to start. Movies such as “There’s Something About Mary” “Zoolander” and “Starsky and Hutch” left me wondering what anybody attached to those movies thought was funny about them. I think I like him best when he’s in movies that enable him to show he’s capable of darker, more serious material as well as comedies. Such as “Zero Effect” which is the best detective movie you’ve never heard of. ‘The Royal Tennebaums” and “The Cable Guy” which to me is little bit too much on this side of creepy to be considered a true comedy. I’m happy to be able to say that in his capacity as director, co-writer and one of the stars of the action comedy TROPIC THUNDER, Ben Stiller is firing on all cylinders. It’s easily the funniest movie I’ve seen all year.
The Vietnam War epic “Tropic Thunder” is in serious trouble. In its first five days of shooting it’s already a month behind schedule and $100 million over budget. This is due to the primadonna behavior of the movie’s stars: Tugg Speedman (Ben Stiller) is feuding with superstar Australian actor Kirk Lazarus (Robert Downey, Jr.) Tugg has made his rep in the industry as an action star in the mode of Stallone and Willis. He sees this movie as a way to prove he can actually act but he’s horribly insecure since Kirk has won a truckload of Oscars already. So much of a method actor is he that Kirk has undergone a radical medical procedure so that he can play a black man. Jeff Portnoy (Jack Black) is an Eddie Murphy-ish type of comedian who insists on playing all the characters in his movies and also has a serious heroin habit. Alpa Chino (Brandon T. Jackson) is a third-rate rapper who’s more interested in hyping his ‘Booty Sweat’ energy drink than getting his performance right. In fact, the only actor who seems legitimately willing to work is the rookie Kevin Sandusky (Jay Baruchel) who’s just happy to be working with actors he’s idolized for years.
Studio head Les Grossman (Tom Cruise) goes on the warpath and threatens to shut production down unless something is done. In desperation, the movie’s director (Steve Coogan) takes just his stars, his special effects wizard (Danny McBride) and the author of the book the movie is based on (Nick Nolte) out into the real jungle. His intention is to get his actors motivated by doing ‘real guerilla filmmaking’ and getting away from the safety of the set. He has no idea how real it’s going to get. Their helicopter goes off course and lands near a heroin processing plant run by the feared Flaming Dragon gang and their leader: a really scary 12 year old druglord (Brandon Soo Hoo) Naturally the gang thinks these are soldiers come to kill them and burn down their plant. And our boys think the gang are actors and the processing plant a set built by their director to get a more naturally realistic performance out of them. When our heroes finally realize that this is for real, that’s when the laughs as well as the action truly takes off.
TROPIC THUNDER does the best thing a comedy can do for me: it kept me laughing from the start right through to the end credits. The cast in this one are all obviously having a terrific time, from the stars down to the really large cast of cameo actors (watch for Jon Voight’s…his got one of the biggest laughs from me and the audience my wife and I saw the movie with) Ben Stiller keeps the action and the comedy moving fast and he’s generous enough to give plenty of time to his co-stars. I was surprised at how much action was in the movie. In fact, if you took out the gags and did a little tweaking you’d have a perfectly respectable 80’s style action movie.
Between his performance in “Iron Man” and TROPIC THUNDER, I’m ready to give Robert Downey, Jr. the Academy Award for this year’s Best Actor right now. Downey owns this movie and no, I was not offended by him playing a white man playing a black man. One, because he does it so damn well and two, the character he plays is more of a comment on those method actors who go to extremes to get into the skins of their character. His theories and observations on the different acting styles of his fellow thespians drive everyone to near madness. Mainly because nobody ever understands what the hell he’s talking about. And the heart of the reason why Downey’s character wants to play a black man goes a lot deeper than you might think. The only other actor who even able to match Downey for out-and-out lunacy in this movie is, believe or not, Tom Cruise as Les Grossman. I’m an unashamed fan of creative profanity and the innovative vulgarity used by Cruise has to be heard to be believed. And as rich as the verbal jokes are, there are just as many visual gags going on the background which only adds to the hilarity.
There’s a lot more I could go into but I wouldn’t dare dream of it. TROPIC THUNDER is profane, unashamedly un-PC, wonderfully offensive, rude and vulgar. It’s also well-acted, has gorgeous locations and will make your sides hurt from laughing so much and so long. And it’s a pretty good action flick as well. By all means, definitely go see this one and have a good time.
Rated R: For drug use and violence. But it’s really the extensive use of profanity you’ve got to watch out for. If you’re at all sensitive to the use of profanity don’t say you haven’t been warned ‘cause theres a whole lot of it in this movie.