Saturday, August 23, 2008

Review - Tropic Thunder

A group of high profile actors are casted in the a big budget Veitnam War film based on a true story. The actors are put in real locations and are forced to become the soldiers they are protraying on screen, when they realize the film they are making is actually happening.

Directed by Ben Stiller, Tropic Thunder is a action-comedy that has great moments but ultimately was a victim of too much hype and not enough pay-off! In a year that has some great comedies including, "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," "Hamlet 2," "Fanboys," and "Pineapple Express" Tropic Thunder feels like a bit of a let down with such a talent ridden cast. The film was very funny and did have some great action throughout but, overall I was disappointed after the huge hype machine that started back in Febuary and all the under-utilized ability of the phenominal cast.

First off let's talk about who shined! Tom Cruise and Robert Downey Jr made Tropic Thunder, actually they saved it! Without their perfect performances this movie would have scored alot lower on the Schofizzy scale. Tom Cruise, who I usually don't care for, was absolutely hilarious as the uber producer Les Grossman. Every scene Cruise was in demanded attention and had me waiting for more of his screen time. I think what made Cruise's performance so great, is it seemed like what Cruise is really like when the cameras are off. Cruise has a major ego, like Grossman, and he did a perfect job of playing the smug prick producer! I am so glad that Robert Downey Jr is back in full swing again and giving us amazing performances! RDJ was so funny as Kirk Lazarus and really stole all the Thunder right out of Tropic Thunder. I had some real doubts about his role considering he was doing "black face" but the character goes off without a hitch and really shows that Downey Jr. has some serious acting chops.

Stiller who wrote, directed, and starred in the film did a good job with his directing and story telling, but his character was not nearly as appealing as some of his other roles (Derek Zoolander) or the other members of the cast. The story itself was very strong and really moves at a great pace. The action and hilarity has a strong mix, but too much of the story is wasted on Stiller's character Tugg Speedman and one of his previous roles playing a "retard" named Simple Jack. Recently alot of backlash has risen about the language used in Tropic Thunder and Stiller's depiction of a mentally challenged person. Personally, I thought the outrage was really over nothing, but after watching Tropic Thunder I felt, alot of the Simple Jack parts of the script could have been avoided for something far funnier. From the get go, the bits about Simple Jack were only midly amusing and by the end of the film it is actually a tad annoying!

The rest of the supporting cast were strong, but felt under-utilized in the 107 minute film. Nick Nolte who was awesome as Four Leaf Tayback, but is only in the film for maybe 20 minutes, and most of that is in the background. Jack Black as Jeff Portnoy who is famous for his Fatty films, which is a play off Eddie Murphy's "The Nutty Professor," also feels like an untapped resource. Black's promo stuff that was done for MTV and other media outlets was funnier than his actual role in the film. Black's character for most of the film is kicking heroin and his performance just falls flat until the strong finale. Danny McBride, who is a comic gem, is a riot as the lead pyrotechnic Cody! McBride however, shares most of his screen time with Nolte, so he too, I wished there was a tad more of.

Overall Tropic Thunder is alot of fun and keeps the viewer entertained throughout. Unfortunately, some movies can have a backlash from too much hype and I feel that Tropic Thunder is a victim of just that. I went in with extremely high expectations and found myself thinking this isn't nearly as funny as other comedies I've seen this year. Stiller, who has directed a few other good films (Zoolander, The Cable Guy, and Reality Bites) seems to have shown that he can handle a action flick as well as a comedy. I know that this has been Stiller's baby for quite some time, and in no respect would I deem this movie as a failure! It had a strong opening at the box office and was very funny, just in a year that I have seen better comedies, it will go down as only a worthy effort.


Robert Downey Jr. cracks me up... he's got a real knack for not taking himself too seriously

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