Monday, September 1, 2008

Tropic Thunder

Tropic Thunder is a stupid movie. However, a quote from the movie itself illustrates just what that means.

Downey: "Everybody knows you never do a full retard."

Stiller: "What do you mean?"

Downey: "Check it out. Dustin Hoffman, 'Rain Man,' look retarded, act retarded, not retarded. Count toothpicks to your cards. Autistic, sure. Not retarded. You know Tom Hanks, 'Forrest Gump.' Slow, yes. Retarded, maybe. Braces on his legs. But he charmed the pants off Nixon and won a ping-pong competition. That ain't retarded. You went full retard, man. Never go full retard."

When Tropic Thunder is stupid, it's a hilarious, farcical, deconstruction of the movie industry, and actors world wide. When Tropic Thunder goes completely stupid, it's just annoying. Unfortunately, it skews between the two often enough that it seems the film just isn't sure of what it wants to do.

The cast is star studded. Ben Stiller plays Tugg Speedman, an over the top action star on the downside of his career, similar to another actor on the film.

Robert Downey Jr. plays Kirk Lazarus. The ultimate method actor, the Australian has won five Oscars, and is so dedicated to his role that he underwent a surgical procedure to allow him to portray the Black Sgt. Lincoln Osiris. One part Russell Crowe, one part Robert De Niro.

Jack Black plays Jeff Portnoy, a drug addled comic known for his low brow, multi role comedies. Think Eddie Murphy meets Mike Myers.

Brandon Jackson plays Alpa Chino, a rapper, turned business mogul, turned actor. Think P. Diddy meets Gangstaliscious.

Jay Baruchel plays Kevin Sandusky, a young actor whom no one really knows.

Nick Nolte plays "Four Leaf" Tayback, handless Vietnam vet, who wrote the book the film within the film is based on.

Matthew McConaughey plays Rick "Pecker" Peck, Speedman's agent. Basically Drew Rosenhaus on crack.

Tom Cruise plays Les Grossman, a foul mouthed, scheming producer. One part Donald Trump, one part Mark Cuban.

Tropic Thunder kicks off with some fake previews that set the tone for each primadonna actor, followed by a blown scene, in which a $4 million explosion is set off without the cameras rolling. The film is a month behind schedule, only five days into production. Speedman and Lazerus are fighting over creative control, Chino whores out his energy drink "booty sweat" every other line, and Portnoy is wired on heroin. The rookie director is unable to handle the massive egos of the primadonna actors, and with the producer breathing down his neck, he accepts an idea from the slightly unstable Tayback.

The proceed to fly the actors deep into the Vietnam jungle, where a setup of hidden cameras and the director's camcorder would empower them to film the scenes "Guerrilla style". However, the situation changes rapidly as they are found by drug smugglers, and despite their thoughts that it's still a movie, the situation becomes very real.

The film is well done thematically. Things are always satirical. The problem is that it tries to go too many places at once. Imagine The Naked Gun trying to be somewhat serious as a film, despite still being completely scatterbrained. It could really have done with some tightening up, removing some of the "fully retarded" sections.

The acting varies heavily. Stiller comes out a little stiff, and Jack Black has never been a serious actor, simply portraying the same speedball style of shock acting. Baruchel and Jackson are pretty good. Cruise and McConaughey have some scenes that push the stupidity quotient. Downey Jr. does the best. His ability to switch accents is impressive, and the ability to convincingly carry out a person who is convincingly carrying out another person is pretty damn impressive.

The soundtrack is excellent, and accentuates the movie very well.

Tropic Thunder is 107 minutes long, and brought in a 71 on metacritic. All in all, it's a decent comedy, but a little too much of a roller coaster ride. I'll give it a 5/10.

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