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A blog for poetry, prose, and pop culture.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Movie Review: Tropic Thunder

Hey all,

Finding some time to myself tonight I thought I would head down and catch a movie. I like to watch a movie by myself every once in a while, it is a good time for me to occupy my own thoughts and really work out things for myself. I find it sort of cathartic to get out on my own on occasion and find solitude among the throngs of an audience.

Anyway I saw Tropic Thunder, a movie my room mate had already seen so it seemed a good choice for a solo pick. Tropic Thunder is directed and written by Ben Stiller, starring himself, Jack Black, and Robert Downey, Jr as three very different actors making a huge budget Vietnam movie. Stiller is the fading action star who is coming of a streak of flops and is looking to capitalize on a big comeback after his last film in which he played a mentally handicapped person. Black is a comedian famous who has starred in a string of "Eddie Murphy" type roles playing multiple characters in low brow comedy, who is also a drug addict. Downey, Jr is the accomplished method actor, a five time Oscar winner who totally becomes his character. In this film within a film, he undergoes an operation to change the pigment of his skin to become an African American.

The film starts with some great fake trailers giving you this back story of the types of films they are known for, then falls into the meet of the film. Shooting in Vietnam, they are adapting a war story by a Vietnam War survivor (played by Nick Nolte) called Tropic Thunder. The film is grossly over budget, the actors are all having problems working with each other. In an effort to save the film from being canceled, the director decides to shoot it as a "gorilla" picture. Lining the jungles with mini cameras, he takes them deep into the bush and leaves them, in order to get real. Unfortunately it becomes to real as they have tread into actually occupied territory, and the actors don;t know what is real and what isn't.

Let's start with the good. Casting was very good. Robert Downey is hilarious in his role. Honestly I wish they would have focused more on his character and less on Stiller. He has a subtle blend of over the top humor with a very sublime delivery. Jack Black is also pretty good as the heroin addict comedian who is grossly out of his element, and out of heroin! There was also a bit of stunt casting with Matthew McConaughey as Stiller's sycophant agent and Tom Cruise as an overweight, bald and hairy movie executive. McConaughey is fairly blase in the role, but as much as I am not a Tom Cruise fan he really goes against type to get the funny as the obscenity spewing movie exec. He really curses a blue streak and it's so unlike his usual roles that it is really funny.

The bad in the film is Stiller. I have never been a big fan of his type of "character comedy" like in Dodgeball or Zoolander. His character Tugg Speedman, is surely lampooning the action heroes of the 80's and 90's, but I didn't really laugh at anything he said. Really the moments that I laughed at were in the trailer, with a few exceptions. I wished they spent more time on the ancillary characters or with Downey interacting with the various members of the cast. Though there are times that you don't really know what Downey is talking about, where the line between him playing his character and him playing his movie within a movie character blurs. He says he doesn't break character until the movies over, but there are times where you aren't sure which he IS playing. Jack Black is also fairly underused in the movie, spending most of it combating different aspects of his addiction. Which is funny, but very one dimensional.

Overall the comedy falls a bit flat. The movie is so caught up in making fun of actors and movies that it forgets that it has to deliver on the things it's satirizing. You will find some laughs here, and if you are a fan of Stiller's brand of comedy, you will probably like this. For my money if you want a funny movie with a bigger emphasis on low brown humor, check out Step Brothers.

Thanks for reading!

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