Ben Stiller sends up Hollywood relentlessly in the funniest movie in a very long time – in Tropic Thunder! The send-up here is egoistical actors and of course, Mother Hollywood. It’s really fascinating actually, to see such a clever and witty send-up of Hollywood – that could only be a product of Hollywood.
It starts with a faux ad and three faux trailers to introduce the characters: An ad for the rapper Alpa Chino’s (say that very slowly) energy drink. Then the first fake movie trailer for action star Tugg Speedman’s (Ben Stiller) Scorcher 6: Global Meltdown, a parody of Stallone/Schwarzenegger machisma. Then a trailer for comedian Jeff Portonoy’s (Jack Black) The Fatties: Fart 2, a parody of Eddie Murphy’s fat-suit comedies. And finally, a trailer for dramatic Method actor Kirk Lazarus’ (Robert Downey Jr.) Satan’s Alley, a general parody of “Oscar bait”.
We open with a dramatic war battle. Blood spurts, things blow up, soldiers are mowed down with bullets. Then when a soldier is shot, the commander runs to his body and cries. Then a director yells, “Cut!”. They all actors, now shooting the most expensive war movie ever made, also called ‘Tropic Thunder’. Merely 5 days into shooting, they are a month behind scheduele. The first-time director is going crazy, and the egoistical actors are making the shoot near impossible.
Tropic Thunder is cancelled by the profane, cigar-smoking, hip-hop-dancing, bald studio boss played by the one and only…Get ready for this…Tom Cruise! Yes! This could full well begin the cycle of a career comeback, he left the whole theater in stitches.
The furious director decides to drop the actors in the middle of Vietnam, assuring them that he has rigged the forest with hidden cameras. But what they don’t realize is that they’re in the middle of a real war zone, with local bad guys shooting real bullets at the actors who think that it’s all just guerilla-style filmmaking. Will the pampered actors make it out alive?
This is hilarious and gut-bustingly funny at every turn, not one actor is wasted and everyone, i repeat, EVERYONE, gets their comedic spotlight at one point in the movie. Ben Stiller just has to play, well, Ben Stiller, and he’s funny all the way. Jack Black is funny in everything he does, this is no exception. I’ve already mentioned Tom Cruise, and there’s thousands more of celebrity cameos that I wont spoil. But there’s one force of nature that drives this movie.
Robert Downey Jr. plays Kirk Lazarus, a five-time Academy Award winning Australian actor who is so committed to his role as an African-American sargeant that he undergoes a chemical procedure to dye his skin brown. Now this is the controversal part of the movie that could have been very very very distasteful and offensive. But it never, not once, becomes that. Why? Because it mocks the ridiculousness that actors take to commit to their roles and is also, very, very funny.
Downey’s Kirk stays in character the whole time they are in Vietnam, much to the annoyance of African-American rapper Alpa Chino. Watching these two riff off each other inspires some of the funniest parts of the movie.
The script is top-notch, Ben Stiller after two comedic classics (this and Zoolander) is proving to be a very talented director, even if as an actor he pretty much plays the same character every time. Alas, there is no aspect of the movie that doesn’t satisfy. There is actually much more action than one would expect from a comedy.
And so Tropic Thunder is at once the smartest and the dumbest movie so far this year, how that is you have to see to understand. A