Tropic Thunder

August 17, 2008 by  

It’s August, so that means it’s the end of the summer blockbuster period, and now we get close to what I call the Dead Zone of the movie season, heading into fall with movies that were shelved by studios because they knew they wouldn’t make any money against the bigger films. But before we enter into that, we’re given one final treat as the summer closes. One last glimpse at the sun before it sets.

“Tropic Thunder” is easily for me the funniest comedy of the entire summer. More focused and playful than “Pineapple Express”, a bit more soulful and bigger laughs than “Step Brothers”; “Tropic Thunder” brings it on every level and fires on all cylinders.

The first ten minutes of this film had me laughing so hard, I couldn’t breathe. It starts with one of the film’s stars, a rapper-turned-actor Apla Chino, promoting his new line of candy bars and some sort of soft drink, followed by fake trailers for the characters played by Ben Stiller, Jack Black, and Robert Downey Jr. Stiller’s movie is a 6th sequel in an action franchise called “Scorcher”; Black’s is a sequel to his hit “The Fatties” (with a comical sequel title), and Downey Jr.’s is a period piece about a homosexual monk. All three trailers are hilarious, but you may find yourself thinking that these could possibly be real trailers–especially with what Hollywood is about to throw at us for the next two months.

The plot is very similar to “Three Amigos!”, but I found it to be not only smarter, but also had more laughs. It’s about a Hollywood production for a film based on the book of a Vietnam vet’s personal story of his tour of duty called “Tropic Thunder”, played by Nick Nolte, and it’s pretty much in production hell. The cast is full of primadonnas, the director can’t seem to handle it, and their mega producer mogul (played by Tom Cruise in a role that is up there in funniest cameos ever territory) is losing patience. The vet offers to the director to shoot the film “guerilla style”, sending the guys out into the jungle and really feeling what it was like for soldiers to be in war. Of course, all hell breaks loose once they’re in the jungle because they come across a bunch of Southeast Asian drug smugglers and think that it’s just a part of the movie.

The film’s second act is weighed down a bit by getting a little heavy handed with the theme of identity and image, and what it really means to be yourself rather than pretending to be a hero–you know the schtick. But it does redeem itself by the end with a fantastic scene at the Academy Awards, in which the documentary about the film wins loads of awards.

Stiller is an industry guy, so this movie isn’t as brutal a satire as, say, “Team America” with how it satirizes Hollywood. It’s more of a light poking-fun-at, but it still gets the job done and I found it to be one of the most fun movies I’ve seen at the movies this summer.

We’ll see how this one ages but for now I think it, along with “Dark Knight” are two movies that lived up to their hype. It’s a rare thing when this happens, but it’s always a pleasure.

Stiller proves he’s still got something left in him, and he also proves he can get some serious talent to make a very non-serious big budget action parody. It’s weird to say that one of the best Hollywood movies this summer is a satire of itself, but then again…it says a lot about the industry doesn’t it?

My rating: :smile:

Family value: Teenagers will be ok with this one, but there’s a lot of foul language and violence that should tell you to keep the little ones away from this one.

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