Monday, August 18, 2008

Expect Tropic Thunder with Scattered Bursts of Laughter

Tropic Thunder
Release: 08.13.08
Rated R

1 hour, 47 minutes

Matinee ($$$) <
> Full Price ($$$$)

People say that
The Dark Knight was a barrage of advertising for the better part of the last two years. I agree, I saw more than my share of brooding trailers prior to its release. Why aren't people chastising Tropic Thunder for the same excessive marketing? After seeing it, I debated long and hard what sort of impact the trailers had on my opinion. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

If you somehow missed the trailers, the produced, written and directed by Ben Stiller Tropic Thunder stars Robert Downey, Jr (Natural Born Killers), Jack Black (Envy) and Ben Stiller (Zoolander) as three prima donna actors filming a Vietnam war epic based on the amazing true story of vet Four Leaf Tayback (Nick Nolte, U Turn). When first-time helmer Damien Cockburn (Steve Coogan, Hamlet 2) sees his film slipping away, he takes Tayback's advice to dump the cast into the real jungle, and consequently, harm's way, when they are mistaken for D.E.A. agents by the local drug cartel.

After the one-millionth trailer, the cast's special appearances on shows such as The Idol and all the foundless controversary drummed up by the media, I should have been sufficiently brainwashed to embrace Tropic Thunder. My favorite line in the trailers and the film was delivered by Downey's Kirk Lazarus; "Man, just cuz it's a theme song don't make it not true." Hilarious. But is it okay to laugh at Downey in blackface? Some folks who took issue with that were just retarded...or was being retarded the controversy? Stiller's Tugg Speedman character goes all Corky in a movie role and the backlash in both the content of Tropic Thunder and in our media creates more controversy.

I'd like to start my own controversy about Tropic Thunder: where are the women?! Two early August comedies, Step Brothers and Pineapple Express, dropped the ball on providing some much needed estrogen, but at least they had women in their stories. The only women I remember in Tropic Thunder are a verbal reference to Jamie Lee Curtis and a cameo by Christine Taylor. Honestly, who did Christine have to blow to get that role...oh yeah, nevermind. I love Bill Hader, but couldn't he have skipped being in one comedy this year to throw Kristen Wiig a bone? Heck, I would have settled for a "Me so horny. Me love you long time." stereotype if it meant there was some feminity in the depths of the jungle.

Maybe the vaginal absence is part of the brilliant satire of Tropic Thunder; women are so underwritten in films, Stiller & Co. wrote them as nonexistent. I did enjoy the satirical spin on characters like the studio head played hilariously by Tom Cruise (Magnolia). It was ingenious that the lead black actor is portrayed by Downey's hot-head Australian Oscar favorite instead of a credible and accomplished African-American actor. Even Jack Black's drug-addled sad funnyman had moments that were surprisingly funny. Brandon T. Jackson (Roll Bounce), the rapper-turned-actor with his shrewd product placement and Jay Baruchel (Knocked Up) as the fledgling actor living his dream were also well-placed satire, though both needed more screentime while Stiller could have used a great deal less.

Dirty Undies
Tropic Thunder is a cacophany of foul language, blank firing machine guns and ejaculatory pyrotechnics by Cody (Danny R. McBride, Pineapple Express). There are geysers of corn syrup blood and then there's the CGI blood that looks more goofy than gross.

The Money Shot
Tropic Thunder started with an uproarious hootnanny but quickly slipped into unfunny stints and this pattern cycled throughout the film's length. The establishing shots and the classic rock soundtrack set the war epic vibe perfectly. Performances by Downey, Cruise and McConaughey (Frailty) leave the most lasting impressions. Having not seen two of those three stars in the trailers, the trailer ultra-hype killed stunted the hilarity and shock value of Tropic Thunder.

I've noticed a disturbing trend in August; the comedies are becoming marginally improved with each week's releases. At this rate I forecast Rainn Wilson's The Rocker and Anna Faris's House Bunny to be worthy of full price admission, and the release of Disaster Movie and College on the 29th will most likely blow our fucking minds! Then again, maybe not.

Large Association of Movie Blogs


  1. Just as you say Stiller stayed true to form of the underwritten females by not having any, one could argue that they did the same to black folks, casting a white man in the largest "black man" role. Kind of a shame.

  2. It is a shame, but Downey did it so well, it's hard to knock it. Still, Alpa Chino could have been received more attention instead of Portnoy.

    I guess if it was the ingenious satire of Hollywood some people are arguing, the lack of quality roles for women or black actors really is accurate.

  3. HAHA... you sure do love the ladies! I appreciate that in you. I too was surprised that Christine Taylor didn't pop in at some point. Maybe Stiller - by not having many actresses - was slyly saying how male dominated the industry is?? Eh, maybe I'm stretching.

  4. A stretch, but anything's possible. And speaking of lady love, House Bunny is ready for the world!

  5. I didn't even notice there was no female lead and there was no need for one. I love that Tom and Matthew were left out of the ads. I had no idea they were in the film and it was an added and welcome surprise.

    I thought this flix was very funny. I was the loudest one in the theater.

  6. There really wasn't a need for a female lead, though I could have seen a woman play Matt's role, or Cuba Gooding Jr. I did enjoy Matt tremendously though.

    I had to be nitpicky about the lack of chicas.

  7. Tom's secretary is a model, one of my favorites. Mini Anden

  8. Never heard of her. I must do some research.

  9. I'll be doing a post on her.

  10. Check out my Megan Fox post while you wait.