Directed by: Ben Stiller
Cast: Ben Stiller, Robert Downey Jr., Jack Black, Tom Cruise
Time: 1 hr. 50 mins
Plot: Superstar Tugg Speedman (Stiller), is cast in the biggest, most expensive war movie ever. His co-stars are Kirk Lazarus (Downey Jr.); an intense method actor, Jeff Portnoy (Black); star of a fart-comedy franchise, hip-hop-star Alpa Chino (Brandon T. Jackson); and first-time actor Kevin Sandusky (Jay Baruchel). The actors are thrown into a real-life situation and are forced to become the fighting unit they’re portraying, in order to find a way out of the jungle alive.
Who’s It For? If you like it when Hollywood pokes fun at itself, then enjoy. Plus there are fake trailers and tons of cameos. There is enough violence and language to warrant the R rating and it's going to be tough to convince some groups Tropic Thunder isn't making fun of the mentally challenged.
Expectations: This is the last big-budget film of the summer that I was excited about. I was pumped to see the buzz surrounding Downey Jr. get into his role.
Ben Stiller as Tugg Speedman: Sure he's attempted to get Rambo arms here, but this role is probably going to be remembered more for Simple Jack. When Tugg is talking to Kirk about going full retard for a role it works great, because it's making fun of actors over analyzing their craft. When Tugg is forced to act as Jack, it's uncomfortable, not comedy. It's the tiny moments for Stiller that are endearing, like the little hop he takes over the barrel while trying to escape.
Robert Downey Jr. as Kirk Lazarus: In 95 percent of this performance, Downey Jr. is channeling his inner-1970s black man. What's crazy is, the 5 percent when he was Australian is what didn't work for me, and I wanted more great straight-faced explanation as to why he couldn't get out of character. It's amazing that this has become the summer of Downey Jr. He's big time after a career of indie films and near misses.
Jack Black as Jeff Portnoy: At first it seems Black is just spoofing himself (and the obvious Eddie Murphy) and it just wasn't working, especially that floppy blond wig. He was the fifth wheel on this fake military mission. As soon as Jeff starts jonesing for his 'jellybeans' the laughs start.
Tom Cruise as Les Grossman: I hope this is even funnier for Hollywood insiders. I want this character to be based on one person in real life. Many film critics will be saying this is exactly what Tom Cruise needed to do for his career ... I guess I am one of them. Sure, the f-bombs fly, yet Cruise needed to prove he's just one of the boys, but still the one with the biggest set of balls.
Brandon T. Jackson as Alpa Chino: Thank god for Alpa. Someone needed to call out Kirk and his black face. Jackson embraces the role and it's the best back and forth of the film. I had a chance to interview Jackson and it's amazing to here about how much Downey Jr. got into the performance.
Rest of Cast: Almost too much here. Jay Baruchel, Steve Coogan, Bill Hader and Nick Nolte all have their chance at laughs and succeed. The funniest man of the summer is Danny R. McBride. Fairly unknown until now, he's was great in The Fist Foot Way, Pineapple Express and now this. The one performance that didn't really work was Matthew McConaughey who was saddled as the agent who only cared about TiVo.
Talking: This movie is made on the strength of the back and forth dialogue between all of these talented comedians. Anyone sharing a scene with Downey Jr. comes out on the losing end a little bit just because he gives such an odd, amazing performance and even reacts to the n-word, which somehow they were able to keep funny.
Sights & Sounds: McBride did such a good job playing the explosive specialist, I feel like I am complimenting him with the special effects. The action crowd won't be disappointed with Tropic Thunder's attempt and making it look like they know how to make an explosive film.
Best Scene: The fake trailers that come before the movie even starts were a great table setter, with Satan's Alley being the best of the bunch, but the best moment was when the director Damien suddenly "leaves."
Ending: Should we talk about the ending? Or the ending of the ending? First, make sure you look closely because yes, Tugg is getting stabbed in the shoulder by a kid, and they bring back the beginning dialogue nicely. But the end that everyone will talk about is Tom Cruise dancing. It's amazing after his huge career that going crazy to Ludacris' "Get Back" could be the most important step in his career.
Questions: Why retard Stiller? It seems like that was the one button he pushed too much and too hard. Make fun of actors all you want, but it's too difficult to tell who exactly he is making fun of with his portrayal of Simple Jack. There had to be a way to do this without having to sit through your st-st-stutter so much.
Rewatchability: Absolutely. It's just a matter of seeing it in the theater again or waiting to see what kind of extras get added to the DVD.
Tropic Thunder is the biggest comedy of the year. It's also the funniest. It's attack humor at it's best. The amount of effort Stiller puts into making fun of everyone, mainly actors, is great. There are cameos galore, fake movie trailers to start things out, and of course Downey Jr. as an Australian playing a black man, and Cruise playing a fat, angry studio executive. With most large casts of big names, a story gets lost in the shuffle, but that's not the case with Tropic. There were hints of kinks in the armor, especially with Stiller's Simple Jack, but tons of chances were taken and the majority definitely work.
Score: 8 out of 10