Tropic Thunder

Year 2008

Ben Stiller as Tugg Speedman
Robert Downey, Jr. as  Kirk Lazarus
Jack Black as Jeff Portnoy
Jay Baruchel as Kevin Sandusky
Brandon T. Jackson as Alpa Chino
Nick Nolte as Four Leaf Tayback  
Matthew McConaughey   as Rick Peck
Tom Cruise as Les Grossman
Brandon Soo Hoo as Tran
Director - Ben Stiller
Screenwriters - Justin Theroux
  - Ben Stiller
  - Etan Cohen

Tropic Thunder looked lame, but I thought I'd watch it because it was on cable. I liked it. Recently, I saw it again. It wasn't as funny as I'd remembered.

In this comedy, four movie stars do a Vietnam War movie together. They are not gelling on the set so the director decides to turn them loose in the real jungle. Things go awry and now the quartet needs to fight for survival.

From a Hollywood point of view, it's a send-up of Hollywood. From unscrupulous producers to talentless actors to phony war veterans, it pokes fun at stereotypes. Sometimes, it's more than just a stereotype and real actors are skewered.

There are lampoons of scenes from Vietnam war movies including Platoon and Apocalypse Now that, although they're not funny, at least they're entertaining.

The movie fails on the politically correct scale because they use words like "retard" and because Robert Downey, Jr.'s character does a black face. But everyone who is not PC gets punished for not being PC.

I've asked it before and I'll ask it again. Why are penis jokes suddenly so important to movies? For over a hundred years movies have been made without having to rely on penis jokes. Now, it's necessary. To me it just shows how uncreative writers can be.

This movie is about as subtle as a pipe to the head. How do you make something funny? Shout the words and add the word "d**k" at least one, preferably two, times. How do you keep the movie from getting boring? Blow something up.

Lots of shouting profanity and lots of explosions. That about sums up the movie. It's about as delicate as Cheech Marin was in From Dusk Till Dawn.

Oh, I suppose there's some social commentary, but it's a lot of "in" observations about the incestuous Hollywood community. (Jon Voigt does a cameo speaking of fathers of weird offspring.)

So why not under a rock? Robert Downey, Jr.'s character is pretty funny. The whole "You went full retard. Never go full retard." is something I find myself saying sometimes.

Using a child as a drug lord is a little bit of a cliché but I still liked Brandon Soo Hoo (Dr. Suess' Sue Who?) as the young sadist.

But Tom Cruise, as producer Les Grossman, really stole the movie. He's as crude as anyone else, but he's supposed to be and, unlike in Magnolia, his misanthropic character fits nicely. He's funny.

Blasphemy, profanity, and explosions up the whazoo. No nudity, unless you watch the director's cut and then there are pictures of topless models. It's really best appreciated by teenage boys under the age of sixteen. But with all of the penis jokes and profanity, they shouldn't be watching this until they're at least sixteen. It's funny in spots but don't expect anything great.

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