Sunday, August 17, 2008

Tropic Thunder

Tropic Thunder is another solid action-comedy hybrid for this summer. The concept is fun, it's about the actors in a big-budget Vietnam movie getting stuck behind actual enemy lines in the jungle. Ben Stiller, who also co-wrote and directed, is the action hero, and the last one to figure out that it's all real. Jack Black is the low-brow comedian (quite a stretch) who has a drug problem. Robert Downey Jr. is terrific as the foreign thespian who never breaks his character as a black soldier. He's quickly become one of my favorite actors in the last couple years, and he's the best reason to see this. Tom Cruise appears as a vicious studio mogul, and he's mildly entertaining, but I thought his performance was over-hyped just because he's Tom Cruise. Other big names play small parts, and a huge portion of the movie's humor is the jokes about the movie industry, especially the politics with the Academy Awards. Downey's speech about Best Actor nominations is one of the funniest things I've ever heard about Hollywood. The film also begins with fake ads and trailers featuring the characters, and it sets the tone quite well.

Besides all the meta-jokes though, it's still a fun movie. The movie has the most fun with gore that I can remember seeing since the Monty Python movies, and it's a sort of gross-out humor I like more than just bathroom stuff. Not everything in the movie succeeds, but it's crass and silly enough to be fun without thinking too much. The movie does a lot to offend different groups like the mentally challenged, and just doesn't care about it. It's all just comedy, and doesn't step lightly. There's some good silly action-dialogue and pointless explosions going around everywhere, and the pacing of the comedy and violence are pretty good. Stiller's act is a little tired at this point, but I thought this was a pretty decent return to form.

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