A shy student trying to reach his family in Ohio, a gun-toting tough guy trying to find the last Twinkie, and a pair of sisters trying to get to an amusement park join forces to travel across a zombie-filled America.
A cab driver finds himself the hostage of an engaging contract killer as he makes his rounds from hit to hit during one night in Los Angeles. He must find a way to save both himself and one last victim.
A film crew is in Southeast Asia filming a Vietnam-war memoir. It's early in the shooting, but they're already behind schedule and over budget. On the day an accident befalls the novice director, the cast and crew are attacked by a gang of poppy-growing local drug dealers, except the cast and crew don't realize these aren't actors who are stalking them. The thugs kidnap Tugg Speedman, an actor whose star seems on the decline, and it's up to the rest of the ragtag team to band together long enough to attempt his rescue. But will Tugg want to leave? Written by
Ben Stiller first came up with the idea for this film while working on Empire of the Sun (1987). He has said in interviews that at the time he had friends who were actors in Platoon (1986) and Hamburger Hill (1987) and they would go on about the intense "boot camp" preparation and simulation of war these projects involved and how it made them feel like real soldiers. Stiller found this funny because he thought that being an actor in a war film was nothing like being a real soldier in a real war. See more »
The drug traffickers encountered late in the film, despite being in Laos (Sandusky estimates they're not in Vietnam anymore), speak Mandarin Chinese - a fact noted by Kirk, who uses his crappy knowledge of it to attempt to bluff his way into the heroin plant. See more »
"He Who Must Not Be Named" brings down the house, steals what is probably the smartest, dumbest, and arguably the best comedy of 2008
Very rarely do comedies hit the mark in terms of both smart humor and dumb humor in the same movie, let alone the same scene. That's what we've got with Tropic Thunder, a comedy that excels in both satirical jokes and laugh out loud stupidity. If you're game for any of that, in addition to quite possibly the funniest and most shocking cameos of all time, then Tropic Thunder is the perfect movie to close the summer of 2008 with.
Ben Stiller has always been the poster boy for trying to mix these two severely different types of humor recently, and has failed in his other two main directing attempts (although Zoolander was funny). Here, he more than succeeds in making Hollywood the laughingstock of the summer, and who better than Stiller to do so, someone who has been around the business his entire life.
Obviously, what's going to get the most laughs is our cast, which is one of the best comedy casts assembled, in my opinion. Our supporting performers are just as strong, if not stronger than our big three leads (definitely stronger than Jack Black), and we are treated to some of the funniest cameos of all time...One of Tropic Thunder's cameos, one of the most famous and serious actors in the world, nearly steals the movie, and is funnier than the last time he did a role like this (Austin Powers 3). If you don't know who I'm talking about by now, just wait until you see him. He'll have you on the floor laughing by the end of the movie. Other cameos (including a Judd Apatow boy and a former People's Sexiest Man Alive) are entertaining, but they have nothing on the big guy.
Now, to the actual cast...Starting with Stiller himself. Stiller has always been great at playing over the top asses, and that's what his character here is. There's plenty of exaggeration, plenty of laughs, but I felt there could have been more arrogance and more development in his character. The film belongs to Robert Downey Jr. (why am I not shocked by this?), who could sneak a Golden Globe nomination in if he's lucky for his performance as super-serious star Kurt Lazarus. Downey is absolutely hilarious, yet believable as this actor who believes acting is larger than life, and provides for the best satire of all. Jack Black is, if anything, forgettable and provided few laughs (though he does deliver one of the funniest lines of the movie). Jay Baruchel and Brandon Jackson are great in their supporting roles, and were the most well rounded characters (especially Baruchel). Danny McBride (three out of the last four movies I've watched have had this guy in it) of Pineapple Express is just as great here in another hilarious role tailor made for him. Nick Nolte is an odd presence, but an asset nonetheless. Steve Coogan's short role is memorable.
Stiller's main point in the film was obviously to make fun of Hollywood and his fellow actors as well, and he succeeds enormously. The fact that mentally challenged rights groups are calling for boycotts only proves Stiller's point: we all need to chill out, and stop taking things so seriously (where's The Joker when you need him?). The "bad" scene where the characters say 'retard' a few times is actually one of the best satire scenes in the movie. The scene isn't making fun of mentally challenged people, rather the actors that have won Oscars for playing them. Dustin Hoffman and Peter Sellers are not spared.
Like Pineapple Express before it, Tropic Thunder suffers from a less than stellar second act, which is used to attempt to ground the film in reality. This is unnecessary. We know that this could never happen. Insurance policies wouldn't even let a director think about doing what Coogan's character does in this film. However, the film starts and finishes very well (in fact, it starts better than any comedy of the year). It finishes with roars of laughter, and even though it is just absurd, it doesn't matter, because we've had a great time along the ride. Yes, Tropic Thunder is vulgar, but nowhere near the other Apatow brand products out these days. There's some blood and graphic violence, but nothing too bad.
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