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I just got out of a midnight showing and I was absolutely blown away. I
fully expect this to be a mediocre movie at best, but it surprised me
in all aspects. It was well directed, acted, the action scenes were
actually very well done and pretty epic, and most of all it was
hilarious. I doubt I stopped laughing for more than a minute or two. I
don't want to give anything away so I will keep it brief, but do
yourself a favor and see this in theaters with friends.
PS. As a black man, I did not find Robert Downey Jr.'s character offensive at all. He was probably the most hilarious character in the movie.
'Tropic Thunder' is the sharpest, nastiest, and most honest parody of
Hollywood since Altman's 'The Player'.
If Doweny Jr. in black face, the script's use of "retard", or the politically incorrect humor offends you, you're missing the point.
Only Russel Crowe, Robin Williams, and Harvey Weinstein should take offense. The parodies of their personalities, their films, and their business tactics are downright cruel. (But, so, so true, and so brilliant.) I must credit every actor -- particularly Downey Jr. and Cruise -- for their performances, and for making their characters more than stereotypes for cheap laughs.
The more you know about Hollywood, the more you will appreciate the film. If not, just go and laugh at the genre. It takes balls to leave in a scene discussing how Blue-Ray conquered HD-DVD (and expect anyone to fine it funny). But it is funny.
To utterly relish the insanity, brush up on 'Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse'.
They got it so right. So, so, so right.
Despite my somewhat indifference, bordering on dislike, of Ben Stiller
and most of what he does, Tropic Thunder has been on my
much-anticipated list for some time now. The audacity of what he was
attempting, spoofing the industry that was giving him the money to do
so, blatantly and lovingly, was too great to ignore. And then there is
the cast of stars with cameo after cameo of surprise faces joining in
on the fun, not to mention the intense marketing strategy pushing it
along. Websites for each fictional actor, a site with clips from the
Rain of Madness making of documentary (a Heart of Darkness send up
"directed" by co-writer Justin Theroux), and even a faux E! True
Hollywood Story to air the week before its premiere in theatres just
add to the mythology and attention to detail that went into its making.
Now, having finally seen the end result, I must say it didn't let me
down. True, I was expecting more in the way of story and plot,
especially with all that background info manufactured, but when you get
down to it, the entertainment value is off the charts, the one-liners
are going to be quoted for years to come, and the laughs come often and
To take on subject matter as lofty as a send-up to war films, mainly Apocalypse Now, needs a certain amount to bravery and confidence to not care if it all backfires. The production value and effects make this seem as though it is a certified blockbuster falling apart at the seams. Sure the characters are funny and the events on display hilarious, but by the look and feel of the aesthetic, this is a war film to the end. Between that realism and the love I have for meta-narrative, there was little chance Stiller would be bombing in my eyes. Something about movies within movies intrigue the heck out of me, and this one having actors within actors just played up my interest more. There was truly no better way to start this movie then how was done: the playing of Alpa Chino's rap music, consumerism selling commercial and trailers for our three leads' previous films. What better way to be introduced to our action star, our funnyman, and our award winning thespian? Knowing full well the extent of satire going on, each spot delivers, giving a little background into the work these men have done in the past.
Directly connecting with the subsequent shot, a live scene from the film at hand, the egos finally come out and show face. Jack Black's Jeff Portney reins in his comedian schtick to portray a hardened solider, voice rasping as he shows his serious side; Stiller's Tugg Speedman attempts to revive the action cred he tried to leave behind with his Oscar-bait turn as a mentally handicapped man in Simple Jack, where he went "full retarded, no one ever comes back from that"; and Robert Downey Jr.'s Kirk Lazarus, Australian genius at his craft, playing a black man like he was born one. The scene continues without a hitch, explosions everywhere, screams heard in the distance, and a heartfelt death about to be delivered, until the men show their true colors. Tugg can't make himself cry, (he's just not that good), and Kirk's blubbering and drooling is just so real that the two must partake in a pissing match while effects guru Cody, (the red hot of late Danny McBride), let's loose the one-take only scorched earth fire storm. It's all falling apart and script-writer/former soldier Four Leaf, (the always gruff Nick Nolte), gets the director, (Steve Coogan with one of the best film exits I've ever seen), to agree on guerilla filming, deep in the jungle of foreign lands. Here is where the fun begins and where the movie inside the movie becomes real, or, in effect, the actual moviekind of like "the dude playing the dude, disguised as another dude". The levels at play here are just too many to mention.
Besides a weakly written role for Black, the rest of the men are given enough to work with for some truly great moments. Stiller has a few instances where he returns to his over-long annoying routinepouring "fake" blood into his mouth for onebut for the most part did a real good job, especially with his tough guy poses shooting off his gun. Jay Baruchel shines as the only non-celebrity involved, the guy who went to boot camp, read the novel and the script, and idolizes the men he is working with. Good to see him get a more beefed up role as opposed to the side parts in Apatow films. And the back and forth between Downey Jr. and Brandon T. Jackson's Alpa never get old. The whole dynamic of real black man versus fake was unceasingly funny.
There were plot points that irked me throughout, TiVo's cameo being the biggest culprit, but I found myself pushing the problems aside and just enjoying the ride. Downey Jr.'s facial expressions, voices, and presence may steal the show, but what really allowed me to forget my worries was an absolutely brilliant cameo from Tom Cruise. His studio executive, pompously crass, loud-mouth made me think of all the horror stories you hear about the Weinsteins, and his dance moves can not be equaled. Tropic Thunder is first and foremost a vehicle for a bunch of friends to have a blast poking fun at their craft and really at themselves. I'll be remembering quotes all night now, thinking that while the story itself doesn't necessitate me watching it again soon, the jokes just might make buying it a must not to mention the wealth of extras that DVD is sure to have.
Advanced screening: Toronto (July 31, 2008) Tropic Thunder is a film
I've anticipated (from it's trailers/ Downey Jr's "Blackface"
controversy) for quite awhile, but knowing Ben Stiller's hit (Reality
Bites) or miss (Zoolander) directing filmography, I kept my
expectations relatively lukewarm. Luckily that wasn't necessary because
it's Stiller's best effort as a director to date as well as one of the
best comedies of the year.
Starting with the best fake-trailers this side of Grindhouse, TROPIC THUNDER develops into the most uniquely wacky blend of satire/action/ and gross-out I've ever seen. At first it appears to be a straight-up spoof on popular war films, then it becomes a film within a film, then an attack on Hollywood and the film industry in general. Also present are some rather shocking (and hilarious) sight gags (exploding film-crew members, the brutal slaughter of an endangered species) that managed to catch everyone off guard (yet not offend them).
The main reason TROPIC THUNDER works so well though is it's stellar ensemble cast. You have the likes of Ben Stiller, Robert Downey Jr, Jack Black, Jay Baruchel, Steve Coogan, and Nick Nolte all turning in terrific comedic performances that they obviously had fun with. Tom Cruise gives the extended cameo of the year as a studio executive, while Tobey Maguire and a slew of other actors make notable appearances. Ultimately it is Downey Jr. who steals almost every scene as the platoon's very white, African-American squad leader.
Rude, witty, and ballsy, TROPIC THUNDER is a great time at the movies. It's hard finding worth-while large budget comedies these days, but DIRECTOR Ben Stiller, supported by a strong cast and a great premise, has proved himself to be the right man for the task. 8/10
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
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.
"Tropic Thunder is a film that understands biting satire. It sets out to villainize the very people that made the film possible. It understands parody and it understands good comedy and delivers consistent laughs throughout. It starts out with a promising bang and from there, continues to revel in its absurdity and wit. The script is sharp and provides a great basis for the humor that spurs the film on, however, it's truly the actors that take it to the next level. Robert Downey Jr's performance as the lost Australian actor is perhaps one of the most standout performances in a comedy. Not only that, but Tom Cruise's Les may just be the engine that brings this film home. Its both ridiculous and a furnace of hilarity. But in all truth, the chemistry within the rest of the cast is undeniable. I would have to caution viewers, this film may not be what you're expecting. Ben Stiller's previous films and even his own written "Zoolander" are quite different from the tone and the visuals of Tropic Thunder. And its not just in the profanity or utter gore, its within the concepts behind the film. It dares to go into areas that are politically incorrect and what say may even find on the offensive side. Its not afraid to traverse the areas outside of hands-off comedy. Like I said, this could be satire at is very best, and its got the cast and the laughs to prove it. If you're a fan of balls- to-wall, brazen comedy that isn't afraid of the lines, this will be your cup of tea. You'll be laughing from start to finish and reveling in the ride. It's fresh and that originality carries it somewhere great. There is a total lack of predictability and its shies away from the clichés and THAT is something I think a lot of films haven't been ballsy enough to do." -another critic
I went to see this at an advance showing last night and spent much of the time laughing. The beginning as previously mentioned is extremely creative with a clever cameo from Tobey Maguire and once the movie begins it is non-stop humor from start to finish. The star of the movie by far is Robert Downey Jr who is simply perfect but the real scene stealer is Tom Cruise, though his screen time is limited, his scenes are hilarious. Definitely one to repair the somewhat tarnished image of the past few years. Stiller is his usual self but is overshadowed by Black and Downey Jr. not surprising given the multiple roles he played behind the scenes. Wall to wall cameos, particularly at the end (blink and you'll miss them) and I really won't tell you which the funniest cameo was as that may spoil this gem of a joke....provided you catch it that is! highly recommended movie - I will definitely be heading out to see it when it comes out for general audiences!
Damn, is Robert Downey Jr. on a roll
Rarely (if they occur at all)
have comebacks been so bold and so memorable. When slated to star as
Tony Stark in May's Iron Man which kicked off the blockbuster season
with a bang and a slap, the public, excluding his die-hard supporters
of course, were baffled at the atypical casting choice of the Marvel
hero. For myself, I have always loved Downey Jr. from his excellent
portrayal as Charlie Chapin, to his perfectly suited role in Shane
Black's Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, he is always the best thing about a film.
Lightening struck again (or I suppose first, if you want to follow his
career chronologically) midyear with his smart portrayal as an
overprotective principal in Charlie Bartlet, so it only seems suitable
for him to cap off the summer with his best work yet.
Directed by, and starring Ben Stiller, Tropic Thunder is an epically vast improvement over the suicide inducing effort that was Zoolander and finds Stiller in his best comedic acting form since Meet the Parents. Our adventure follows a group of primadonna actors who are shooting a high budget war epic in Vietnam. As director Damien Cockburn (Steve Coogan) sees his funds draining and his production falling apart at the hands of the maddeningly inept cast, the inspiration for the movie "Four Leaf" Tayback (Nick Nolte) suggests that the film would be better shot guerrilla style using hidden cameras and some improvisation. But, after a series of unfortunate (but hilarious) events leave the troupe stranded, they must both save the picture which their careers are riding on, and possibly themselves at the same time. Adding the flavour to this endeavour are Tugg Speedman (Stiller) as a flailing action has-been, Jack Black, who has also had a successful year, as Jeff Portnoy, an Eddie Murphy-esquire comic, Apatow regular Jay Baruchel as Kevin Sandusky, rapper turned actor Alpha Chino (Brandon T. Jackson) and of course Kirk Lazarus (Downey Jr.) as the Oscar winning method actor. We also get career high cameo and supporting work from various familiar Hollywood faces, Mathew McConaughey and the much buzzed appearance by Tom Cruise, who is simply fantastic.
The most satisfying aspect of Tropic Thunder is that despite show stealing work from Cruise and Downey Jr. everyone gets their slice of the comedy pie. One actor is never in the spotlight too much, and nobody hogs the funny too much. And boy is there a lot of funny; this film is one of, if not the best satire made about Hollywood and the jokes come high and low, subtly and bluntly, and they almost always strike home. Controversy has been in the air surrounding both Downey Jr.'s blackface portrayal as an African American and gags surrounding a film Tugg Speedman had previously filmed in which he was mentally handicapped. While it is inevitable that some will be offended, it is important to remember that both of these jabs are not against such groups, but against Hollywood who churns out method actors who take their job with a block of salt, not a grain. Even complaints I have read regarding this film I see as intentional inclusions by Stiller, who I believe has been in the business too long to have done such without careful thought and consideration.
The film starts without warning with a series of phony trailers featuring the stars of the feature, and are some of the funniest segments I have ever seen, especially that of Downey Jr.'s. Tropic Thunder does not let up however as the ready to quote one-lines, again mostly from Downey Jr. and Cruise, come so fast you will have to make a list once the film has concluded. All in all, this picture is what we needed, a biting satire/spoof that doesn't have the word Movie after it. With a similar action/comedy hybrid formula as this year's Pineapple Express (which both star Danny McBride), Tropic Thunder pours on the laughs like a storm and presents a wit that is nothing less then lightening quick.
View all my reviews at Simon Says Movie Reviews: www.simonsaysmovies.blogspot.com
When an all-star Vietnam film is put in the hands of a first time
British director, the results are an ego-dominated shambles that is a
month behind schedule after only five days of shooting. Director Damien
Cockburn makes a decision that the experiences of "Four Leaf" Tayback
will be best captured on film by dropping the basic cast in the jungle
and forcing them to experience as close to reality as possible while
catching it all on camera. Sadly when Cockburn is killed by a mine mere
minutes into the mission, the cast are left in the middle of a
dangerous jungle, not entirely sure of whether this is real or not.
When I went to see this film I hadn't expected it to be much more than a basic comedy but the reality is that this is a pretty smart satire of Hollywood and movie acting that also produces silly laughs one would expect from a Ben Stiller film. The "black-face" issue has been mentioned in regards the film walking a fine line between being funny or offensive but to me the bigger tightrope act is between being funny and being stupidly silly. Here and there it gets very close to falling over that line (eg all of Tom Cruise's stuff) but if you are with it then it manages to just about stay on the right side of the line. The daft plot allows for micky-taking in regards big studio action movies, spoilt actors, bad projects, studio executives and so on it is never sensible but it is mostly very funny. I think the film doesn't always succeed though because it sort of straddles two stools and those who want one or the other will have reservations while the smaller number who recognise both stools will perhaps see flaws on both. To explain that better I should probably say what I mean rather than referring to furniture and backsides. See as a satire it is undeniably broad and clumsy with the digs being made in clever but still quite obvious ways and you do have plenty of laughs that are knock-about that don't sit with those looking for smart satire. On the other hand you have those who love the silliness of it but don't really "get" it when it is trying to make digs even if they laugh their heads off at a character eating blood in the misunderstanding of it being a special effect. Somehow though it just about works by just going all out for it and things like the racial issues, anti-Semitic stuff etc all hang together sufficiently.
The cast are a big part of making it work. Stiller is solid throughout and works his character as well as he makes fun of him. Downey Jr is very impressive as the deep-method actor who produces the controversy. Black is a necessary evil but at least his character's drug addiction makes him of value within the satire even if his performance is still a fat guy shouting. I liked the support from both Baruchel and Jackson, who held their own alongside the starry cast. The rest of the cast include solid turns from Nolte, Coogan, Maguire (great superhero movie reference), Pollack and others are all in the shadow of a great Tom Cruise who to me is the one we should be talking about when it comes to controversy tightropes. He is always about an inch away from being embarrassingly silly but yet he pulls it off.
Tropic Thunder is not a perfect film by any means. The satire and the knock-about humour don't compliment one another that well but somehow it all works and the majority of the risky moves are pulled off even if it is not quite as clever as it would like to be. To some it will be the stupidest thing they have ever seen, to others the funniest; the truth is somewhere in the middle and it is enjoyable for it.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Every now and then a movie comes out that leaves its audience asking
how in God's name did this film ever get made? How did the pitch go to
its producers ...? Let me see if I've got this straight: You want to
make a comedy about some pampered actors making a Vietnam movie who are
purposely thrown into an actual confrontation to lend some realism to
the operation? Then you see who produced the film -- the actual film --
and then you start to understand: Ben Stiller, the star of the movie --
actual and fictional.
When I was a kid my friends and I would get together in my back yard and shoot comical karate movies with the video camera from the AV department of the school where my Dad taught high school biology. We'd ham it up and watch them over and over again, laughing hysterically each time. But even when I was 13, I knew that the reason these movies were so funny to us was because we were the stars and because we got all the inside humor. One wonders if Stiller, Jack Black, Robert Downey Jr. and the assorted other Hollywood A-listers filling the supporting rolls in this film ever knew as much as I did when I was 13. As I looked around at my fellow moviegoers as the credits rolled on 'Tropic Thunder,' watching Tom Cruise on the screen dancing to some rap song and made up to look like a fat, balding typical Hollywood movie producer, I can tell you with the utmost earnestness, they do not. We all sat there in the dark, waiting for the rest of the laughs a movie with such talent available must surely provide, ultimately. But alas, it never did. Maybe 'Tropic Thunder' is funny to people who work in the movie industry, but I wouldn't know because I'm not one of them -- and neither is 99% of the movie-going audience.
Sure there are a few giggles and guffaws here and there, but 'Tropic Thunder,' can never quite make up its mind about what it is. Is it satire or slapstick? It tries for both but achieves neither. Mostly it's just a lot of crude humor and hammed-up bluster.
I'm no expert, but it seems to me satire works best when you can really focus on the material you're sending up and not distract by randomly introducing strange, unique elements to your story. For instance, in what universe would the head of a jungle-dwelling, gun-toting Asian heroin ring be a 10 year old boy? What are you lampooning? Heroin rings? And its weird enough that a movie director would allow his actors to be set up for real danger on the orders of the movie's producer, so you really don't need the author of the book the film's based on to be a fraud, too. We understand some actors go a little nuts and don't break character, but you needn't conjure up some fictional surgical procedure that allows white people to become black to drive that comic point. You keep all the other constants constant, see, so you can focus on the core humor.
And having no core humor is not an excuse -- though that would surely be the one this film's makers would offer if pressed by an angry mob of moviegoers each seeking a refund. If you've seen the TV trailers for this picture, you've already seen much of the few decent one-liners. And watching Stiller once again set himself up to be hilariously humiliated over and over grew tiresome somewhere around the middle of 'Meet the Parents.' Jack Black's comic talents are squandered. Robert Downey Junior never quite delivers as a Russell Crowe type perpetually lost in a Shaft-esquire black militant role he's playing for the movie being made in the story. Uh, yeeaahh ... that's sooooo Russell Crowe. Matthew McConaughey phones in some whacked out Hollywood agent. Nick Nolte forgettably mumbles up the book author role. And Tom Cruise's performance, as the movie producer, is notable mainly for its clumsiness and bad taste.
Things blow up, people blow up, bats are eaten, disgusting, distasteful things happen. There's a lot of tortured movie-about-movies humor that never really gets any traction. But the problem is you never really care about why any of it's happening and that's often the difference between good comedy and bad. It stands to reason clowny things will happen to a bunch of clowns and that's all this movie's characters are ever shown as. Who cares? Staying in and checking the latest stand-up act on Comedy Central's a better bet than dropping your 9 at the theatre on this one.
This movie review by Erik Gloor.
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