Saturday, August 16, 2008
Movie Reviews: TROPIC THUNDER
Tugg Speedman (Ben Stiller), pampered action superstar, sets out for Southeast Asia to take part in the biggest, most-expensive war movie produced. But soon after filming begins, he and his co-stars, Oscar-winner Kirk Lazarus (Robert Downey), comic Jeff Portnoy (Jack Black) and the rest of the crew, must become real soldiers when fighting breaks out in that part of the jungle.
Cast: Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Robert Downey, Jr., Nick Nolte, Steve Coogan
Director: Ben Stiller
Opened August 13, 2008
Runtime: 1 hr. 46 min.
Rated R for pervasive language including sexual references, violent content and drug
Genres: Action Comedy, Comedy, Showbiz Comedy
Ben Stiller's first directorial turn since 2001's Zoolander is a ball of contradictions. It's seriously funny but serious satirical at the same time. Stiller creates some great comedic homage's to such storied war films such as Saving Private Ryan, Apocalypse Now and Platoon. The characters and plot are paper thin but this isn't really the type of film that begs for deep story or characters. It's a send up of Hollywood types and the caricatures presented vary from very funny, very much dependant on the actor playing the type, to very one note boarding on grating. Each one is introduced through some just ingenious faux trailers that preface the film. First the good, well the very good, Robert Downey Jr. is just spectacular. Downey Jr.'s Kirk Lazarus is a fabulous send up of method actors every where. He has a couple of wonderfully hilarious, one pretty un-PC, interactions with Stiller's Speedman that are some of the films high points. Nick Nolte is particularly funny, in limited screen time, as the grizzled author of the book that the faux movie is based on. Got that? Good. Tom Cruise has an extended cameo, complete with bald head, overly hairy chest and forearms like Popeye, which mostly hit the mark. It's good fun to see Cruise dole out some viciously vulgar dialogue as the insane studio exec. While Cruise's fun turn is enjoyable I was more than a little surprised than to say that I enjoyed Matthew McConaughey, as Speedman's agent, supporting turn here as well. Actually, I'd say it's his best role in a long while. That last statement probably has more to do with McConaughey's penchants for making crap. Other strong supporting turns include Danny McBride as pyrotechnic munitions expert, who may or may have not blinded Jamie Lee Curtis on the set of Freaky Friday, and Jay Baruchel as the green and most sensible actor on set. Stiller himself isn't bad but he isn't great either. His Tugg Speedman is most just Stiller mugging for the camera, similar to Derek Zoolander in a way, which just left me wishing he had done more with the caricature of the fading action star. Still he's worlds better than Black who is playing a caricature of a caricature. Having his play the drug addled funny man fails as his act gets old right from the start, a real shame as it was a pasture filled with comedic possibilities. Even with some small failings Tropic Thunder is a funny film that may offend some hyper sensitive folks but it's never the film's intention to be mean spirited just to point the mirror back at Hollywood.