Tropic Thunder - Theater
AndyO review: * * *
Tropic Thunder is about a bunch of pampered Hollywood stars who go on location to make a movie a lot like Apocalypse Now or Platoon. When things don't go very well, their director takes them deep into the jungle to shoot the film, guerrilla style. Problem is, the director gets blown up by a land mine -- although most of the actors refuse to believe it.
Thus begins their quest.
Ben Stiller, pulling double duty as director and actor, plays Tugg Speedman, an action/adventure star who's lost his magic at the box office. He's tried to make a serious film about a retarded man who thinks he can talk to animals, but it fails -- the film reviewed as one of the worst movies of all time.
Robert Downey Jr. plays Oscar-winning, Australian actor Kirk Lazarus who's playing a black man (he underwent special surgery to play the part). Even between takes, he stays in character, annoying everyone with his Blaxploitation dialogue. (He tells his fellow actors that he doesn't break character until he's done with the DVD commentary.)
Jack Black plays the flatulent, gross-out comedy star Jeff Portnoy who's also trying to make a serious movie -- only he's a heroine addict who goes into withdrawals once he steps into the jungle. (There's a hilarious scene with a bat swooping in and taking his stash.)
There are a couple of other actors joining the "stars," Alpa Chino (Brandon T. Jackson) and Kevin Sandusky (Jay Baruchel). Because they haven't been turned to prima donnas yet, they're able to think a little more clearly than that stars when things get tough.
But what makes Tropic Thunder really work are the support actors, including Tom Cruise, Matthew McConaughey, and Nick Nolte. Tom Cruise is absolutely brilliant, playing mogul Les Grossman. Let's just say you probably won't recognize him at first -- and by the end of the film you'll be thinking he steals the show.
What's a little odd about Tropic Thunder is I didn't laugh as hard as I thought I would. I'm not sure if that's a good or a bad thing. I think I'll know when I watch it again someday.
Tropic Thunder has been a box office success (it was the film that knocked Batman: Dark Knight off its perch), and I think it will go on to be a classic Hollywood war comedy. I know as I left the theater I thought to myself that I'd never seen a movie quite like Tropic Thunder -- which is no small feat.
I also was surprised to see Ben Stiller's name as the director of the film. I've seen a few of his films, but this one is definitely his best. I think he's now on his way to making the shift from A-list actor to A-list director, which is what he's always wanted to do.
I'll definitely be curious to see what he does next.