Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
Tropic Thunder (2008)
Thunder with little Lightning
I'm Black and I saw Tropic Thunder (TT) at a screening on July 9. The movie as a whole is a funny satire of the Hollywood culture and the movie making process. (A bit like a comedic version of the documentary "Lost in La Mancha" with Johnny Depp from 2002).
Now, for Robert Downey Jr.'s (RDJ) performance as a Black sergeant: I didn't find it offensive, and he pulled it off by walking a very fine line between being overly empathetic with Black men and simply attempting to mimic/copy their "perceived" mannerisms.
I'm female, and I know a lot of Brothers, so to see a white guy try to earnestly mimic what they perceive as the "essence" of what a Black man is, is comical and an interesting sociological study in and of itself.
RDJ seems to boil that essence down to the tone and cadence of his voice, and into the dialogue his character speaks. He drops his voice an octave, speaks in a staccato style, and spouts a lot of African American proverbs (old sayings). RDJ isn't terrible, I wasn't offended, but I would shudder to think of less-talented white actors trying this. Also, the younger Black soldier played by Brandon T. Jackson keeps RDJ's character in check, so that he doesn't wander over into what could easily be an Al Jolson-style minstrel performance (which one could argue Tom Cruse's portrayal of a studio exec fond of rap music, does).
For action movie fans, there are plenty of explosions, and some gory violence, so you should be very entertained (this is definitely not for children). I didn't much care for the subplot involving the Vietnamese drug ring's obsession with a mentally disabled character (think Sean Penn in "I am Sam") played by Ben Stiller's character in a previous movie. This makes the movie feel too long, even though it clocks at under 2 hours.
Stiller and his co-screenwriter clearly highlight those aspects of Hollywood movie making he wishes to send-up: Matthew McConaughey's portrayal of an agent/manager obsessed with enforcing the most minute details of his client's contract.
Or Alpa Chino's (character played by Brandon T. Jackson) insistence, that he's charitable in purpose when selling "Booty Juice" -- complete with a roster of rap video 'hos -- so that he can donate the proceeds to charities which help the Black Community. That these videos do more damage to the community than any charity donations could ever undo is lost on the character, which may be Stiller's point, but it is probably too subtle a point for most black you into rap culture (and the Record industry Executives who continue to sign and promote artists who make this type of music) to pick up on.
I also didn't enjoy Jack Black's character as a drug-addicted, star of comedic movies (It's hard to make drug addiction funny, in my opinion).
I did thoroughly enjoy Jay Baruchel's performance as one of the only actors in the movie with real-world experience in the military. A refreshing discovery even though his role is limited.
Had Stiller kept the movie as a comedic turn on the documentary "Lost in La Mancha, I believe he would have been more successful movie.
Overall Rating: 6.5/10
Screenplay Concept: 8/10 Script clarity/execution: 5/10 Performances: 6/10