Directed by Ben Stiller.
Written by Ben Stiller, Justin Theroux and Etan Cohen.
Starring Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Robert Downey Jr. and Tom Cruise.
Release Year: 2008
Review Date: 8/14/08
It's not as great as its trailer--Lord knows
it almost wasn't possible to be that funny for two hours--but
"Tropic Thunder" still gets big laughs and ends on a high that
leaves you feeling that the film was even better than it really was.
My buddy Rob and I left the theater this
evening and Rob said it best--"Tropic Thunder" is funny thanks to a
half-dozen huge laughs and a couple of strong comedic performances
from Robert Downey Jr. and Tom Cruise. But, Rob admitted that
he wouldn't pay to see the film again; we thought it was funny, but
not THAT funny.
That's because the film gets its mileage
from an idea that initially sounds great...until the movie starts:
"Tropic Thunder" is the name of the movie within "Tropic Thunder",
which details a 1969 Vietnam war drama that--five days into
production--is a month behind schedule and millions overbudget.
The film's director (Steve Coogan) has a hard time trying to contain
the egos of its three big-money stars: action icon Tugg
Speedman (writer/director Ben Stiller), comedy star Jeff Portnoy
(Jack Black), and five-time Oscar winner Kirk Lazarus (Downey Jr.),
who has decided that he wants to play an African-American character
in this film so he had his skin genetically darkened to match the
look. So, to whip the crew into shape, the director and the
film's Vietnam consultant, "Four Leaf" Tayback (Nick Nolte), decide
to drop the three heavies plus a couple of the film's other stars
into a real-life war zone in Laos, where the film spends the
remainder of its time.
After the film sets itself up (maybe 20
minutes or so), we watch as the fearless five leads get dropped into
the war zone...and, save for periodic so-so laughs, this section of
the film nearly kills its early momentum. Sure, we get
cutbacks to the Cruise character--playing a no-bullshit movie
executive, one openly wonders why Cruise doesn't do more comedy,
because he is so great in "Tropic Thunder"--but the
Stiller/Black/Downey team doesn't do much to work wonders, even as
the Downey character made me chuckle nearly every time he appears
because Downey is so great in this part. Also, the toilet
humor is out of control in "Tropic Thunder"; for some reason, I
don't mind doses of farting/pissing/potty mouthing, but for long
stretches of "here's the joke--someone's going to fart and say
'Fuck!!'", I usually tune out.
Now, if you can make yourself get through
this middle portion of the movie, the last 30-40 minutes are great,
sometimes superior, comedy. Black's only funny moments come
late in "Tropic Thunder" (and, his down-and-dirty delivery while
strapped to a tree is clearly his best in this film), the Cruise
character gets two absolutely hilarious bits late, Downey delivers a
speech or two before helping the team infiltrate a heroin camp, and
after being left alone for most of the film, we get some of the
Nolte character as well as Danny McBride, who plays Red in
Express." There's an action sequence, funny end credits,
randomly unnecessary johnson jokes, and the film's only true "I fell
out of my seat" moment featuring Stiller and a small Vietnamese
child (think the dog-on-the-bridge scene from
you get the idea). Make no mistake: while "Tropic Thunder" may
be trying to find its way for about an hour, it rights itself just
in time to make you remember why you were so excited to see the
damned thing in the first place.
With that in mind, I will probably watch
"Tropic Thunder" again when it arrives on HBO late next
summer...but, I'll probably just stick to watching the final third.
Good stuff, but certainly not perfect.
Rating: $9.50 Show
Comments? Drop me a line at
Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": This is
the highest rating a movie can receive. Reserved for movies that
exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development,
setting...or Salma Hayek. Not necessarily in that order.
"$X.XX Show": This price
changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently,
it is the $9.50 Show. While not technically perfect, this is a
movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.
"Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca",
but you'll have a great time watching. The $9.50 Show won't win any
Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see
"Matinee": An average movie
that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.
Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about
yourself. A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave
the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that
Lakers game last night?"
"Rental": This rating
indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your
friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one." Mostly forgettable, you
couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to
watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the
video store was out of copies of "Ronin." If you can, see this
movie for free. This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a
"Hard Vice": This rating is
the bottom of the barrel. A movie that only six other human beings
have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen. A Shannon
Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every
one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a
movie. Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or
"Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this
movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!
(Warning: strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard