Year Released: 2008
Directed by: Ben Stiller
Starring: Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Robert Downey, Brandon T, and Tom Cruise(!)
Production Company:
Studio: Dreamworks SKG

When Tropic Thunder was released, all the buzz was about Robert Downey Jr. playing a black man. Different groups were all in upheaval about the charade of a man willing to do something like this in the name of comedy. There was a lot of talk about racism and Hollywood’s easy acceptance in the name of a buck. If you watch the movie, you’ll actually find it’s done quite tastefully and it fits the character Downey Jr is portraying. And if you think Hollywood cares who they’re offending in the name of the almighty dollar, you’re dead wrong. Just take a look at ‘White Chicks’ a gross out comedy starring the Wayan brothers as two blonde heiresses. No one even batted an eyelid when that premise was announced. Even the title was honest in what the content was about, yet you didn’t hear about any petitioning groups against it.

The rabid fans of ‘Envy’ find their way onto the set…

I’m sure the double standards community online agrees with me.

It’s been a while since Ben Stiller was behind the camera, his last directoral movie, Zoolander was the satire of the world of male modeling. This time around, Stiller is a little more honest and has a lot less slapstick in Tropic Thunder. It’s a movie within a movie concept complete with fake trailers with the title characters playing to their strengths. If you give it a chance you’ll have a fun time keeping up with the insanity of movies and vices that each actor can have.

Start the engine, Katie Holmes found out where Tom got to at night!

The story follows a group of actors with engorged egos cast in the most expensive war movie ever made. Each actor is at the top of their game in the three major film genres: Jeff Portnoy (Jack Black) the comedic actor with a spiraling drug problem, Tugg Speedman (Ben Stiller) the action juggernaut with one last chance to show he’s got some acting talent, and Kirk Lazarus (Robert Downey Jr.) the five time oscar winner method actor who gets a little too involved in his roles. In the mix is a up and coming rap superstar Alpo Chino (Brandon T. Jackson) and the unknown actor (Jay Baruchel) who actually reads the source material and script. The source material in question was written by double arm amputee Four Leaf Tayback (Nick Nolte) whose experience in Vietnam and horrific injuries are a result of a top secret mission, which now is being turned into a high-concept overblown Hollywood movie.

The director is fed up trying to get his all-star cast to gel together to get the project done, and at Four Leaf’s request, puts them into the jungle filming them guerrilla-movie style. As you’d expect, something happens and it’s no longer a movie, as the group finds themselves in real danger.

Downey Jr. is magnificent as the dude playing a dude, disguised as another dude.

If you’re going to spoof a major tent pole film, you might as well make it look the part: it’s shot and lit incredibly well. The in-jokes come mainly from the actor’s attachments to their paycheques and lifestyles than they are creating art. All the supporting cast seems to be in on the joke, Matthew McConaughey as Tugg Speedman’s agent is more concerned about getting his client TiVo instead of working on his acting skills. Keep you ears unplugged for an unmistakable voice in Tom Cruise, as Les Grosman, the overweight vulgar, obscenity spewing corporate executive looking to pad his wallet at the expense of any actor or film. This was supposed to be the hidden gem; Cruise is hilarious in his execution, his dance moves and appearance a stark contrast to his otherwise pretty-boy image. His appearance would have dominated the movie, except for:

Robert Downey Jr. Say what you will, his performance walks the line between good taste and comedic timing. He’s got pathos and creates empathy for his fictional character, african American staff Sargent Lincoln Osiris, played by Kirk Lazurus. There’s so many layers behind that performance it’s hard to peel back one after another and not be astounded by the amount of effort he put into those character(s), especially in a movie satire, let alone a comedy film meant to generate laughs instead of buzz. There’s so much conviction in what he’s doing, as his own character states “I only break character after the DVD commentary”. Downey Jr. still shines when he’s playing the Australian Oscar winner and it almost takes away from the films overall tone of irony and sarcasm.

If you looking for a movie that’s light on conscience pick up Tropic Thunder, the laughs are well earned and the filming is beautiful.

7 out of 10