Movie and Film Reviews (MFR) Comedy Tropic Thunder (2006)

Tropic Thunder (2006)

Comedy

Starring: Ben Stiller, Robert Downey, Jr., Jack Black

Director: Ben Stiller

Rookie director Damien Cockburn (Steve Coogan) quickly loses control of his high budget Vietnam War film.  In five days the film is declared a month behind schedule.  The prima donna actors starring in the film, Tugg Speedman (Ben Stiller), Kirk Lazarus (Robert Downey, Jr.), Jeff Portnoy (Jack Black), Alpa Chino (Brandon T. Jackson) and not-so-prima donna Kevin Sandusky (Jay Baruchel), make demands that Cockburn cannot handle.  The studio executive Les Grossman (Tom Cruise) comes down hard on Cockburn and Cockburn fears the worst.

John “Four Leaf” Tayback (Nick Nolte) wrote the novel the film is based on and is on the set as an adviser.  Tayback convinces Cockburn that the only way he’s going to get anything out of this group of actors is to expose them to the reality of war.  So Cockburn decides to film the movie in what he calls guerilla style by dropping them into the jungle and letting them fend for themselves.  However, what appeared to be a very clever plan goes very wrong for everyone.

Tropic Thunder throws together an ensemble of very popular actors.  This isn’t always a guarantee of a good film or a hit as is often the reason such efforts are made.  However, it actually works quite well for this film.  Although I don’t hate Ben Stiller and Jack Black, I don’t always like them in films.  Yet, this is some of the best work Stiller has done since The Ben Stiller Show and Permanent Midnight.  From the diversity of acting he shows as he depicts the various roles of the actor he’s playing, like his role as an action hero in the Scorcher to his films to his role as the mentally retarded Simple Jack which parodies films about the mentally retarded by actors who aren’t , and some sharp dialogue exchanges with Robert Downey, Jr., Stiller hits his acting marks quite well.  From the clips of Jeff Portnoy’s Fatties Fart 2 to his antics caused by his ravenous drug addiction Jeff Black has quite a few genuine laugh out loud moments when many of his roles in the past barely get me to chuckle. 

Perhaps some of this is due to the director abilities of Stiller who may just have a talent for knowing where to place everyone in a film.  Perhaps there’s something to the chemistry of this film with the raw talent of Robert Downey, Jr. who has always been a good actor and lately seems to be turning everything he touches into gold.   The fact that he pulls off playing his role as a white man playing an African American man and it’s not Blackface is a credit to his abilities alone but he delivers one hilarious one liner after another and steals every scene you see him.  Also, I feel I must mention Tom Cruise.  His personal life makes me forget that he can be a good actor.  I don’t like many of his films but every time I see one I do like it reminds me that if I look past all of the crap in his life and career, I find him to be a decent actor.  His role as the short tempered, yet amazing dancer, studio exec is damn clever and just as funny.  It also shows that he doesn’t have to be pretty for him to do his work.

Tropic Thunder satires the media saturated society of modern America with making a movie within a movie and showing parodies of movie trailers, hip hop infected advertising campaigns, reality show type face time interviews, and behind the scenes jargon that everyone these days seems to know.  Although this is nothing new, Tropic Thunder makes it fresh with the whole package.  While the characters seem despicable in many ways they are balanced with a likable naiveté.  The humor of the film is edgy dealing with race and making comments about the depiction of mental retardation in films, yet the humor only goes over the top in the right places.  Of course any premise will work where story, characterization, and dialogue are strong and this is true for Tropic Thunder.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

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