Tropic Thunder: A 4 out of 10 movie review
2008 has been a great year for movies. Following on from the heavyweights of the summer (Dark Knight, Wall-e, Iron man, Kung Fu Panda and Incredible Hulk) comes a comedy from Ben Stiller. Okay, so now only half as many of you are actually still reading this because I mentioned the name "Ben Stiller". I imagine that the other 50% of readers (now off doing something else) are not able to differentiate between Adam Sandler and Ben Stiller. For me, it is easy. Ben Stiller spends most of the time using self deprecating humour and Adam Sandler is funny when he shouts a lot. You see? It's simple.
Tropic Thunder's plot is razor thin. Actors making a war movie, are useless at portraying this well, so it is decided that they should be placed in a more remote jungle area which happens to be on drug running ground. War, explosions and confusion ensues.
So Stiller is joined in Tropic Thunder by Jack Black and Robert Downey Jr (along with some other names that the studio deemed too meaningless to put on the poster (Brandon T. Jackson, Nick Nolte, Steve Coogan and Jay Baruchel). There are some more faces to be spotted, but these are the ones you spend most of the time with.
The trailers for Tropic Thunder explained the tone of the movie in very simple terms. It's tasteless. Robert Downey Jr hangs up his metal helmet and replaces it with makeup to play an Australian actor who has undergone surgery to resemble a black man. Jack Black plays a coked up "comedian" responsible for toilet-humour films which greatly resemble Eddie Murphy's Nutty Professor movies. Ben Stiller plays an actor whose career has taken a downturn after making a movie called "Simple Jack". Brendan T. Jackson plays Alpa Chino (get it); a man completely baffled as to why a white Australian has been cast as the token black man, Nick Nolte is a war veteran (well suited with his voice and hair), Steve Coogan is pointless and Jay Baruchel plays an un-pronounceable character with minimal dialogue.
Tropic Thunder is littered with war movie references from Platoon to Apocalypse Now. In fact at the very beginning, you fear that it has gone down the direct parody route. Thankfully it doesn't hop on the "spoof-every-scene-to-death" road and the film progresses.
At this point it is important to make note of easily the funniest character in the movie. The man financing the film (Les Grossman) had me in stitches every time he came on screen. When you think he's going to show you a bit of empathy, he just reveals himself to be an even bigger git.His closing scene is well worth a watch.
You may be wondering why I am not revealing anything of the content of the movie. Well, that's because if you've seen any of the trailers you know the content. The best jokes (apart from Les Grossman's contribution) have been available to us for several months. Ultimately this is a great shame. Ben Stiller was responsible for the writing of this movie and you tend to think (from about the halfway mark) that more time should have been spend perfecting it. This could have been an excellent film (4 out of 10). As it stands it is still very good, but only due to a few scenes (most of which you've already seen).
So the question is: Is Tropic Thunder worth the admission price? Well, put simply, yes it is. There's nothing like laughing along with others to a funny movie with strangers. It'll offend many, and disgust others (I'm sure you've heard of the controversy surrounding the fake "Simple Jack" trailer). However, for people who don't take things too seriously, it'll make you laugh a lot. Believe me, by the end, you'll be calling out to Ben Stiller to make the film Simple Jack where he plays a mentally retarded man called er....Jack (Think Forrest Gump, but much much worse).
As a final note, it has to be said that Tropic Thunder fooled me. Naturally being a spoiler-free review, no fine details will be shared, but the entire audience were completely oblivious to a certain fact. By the end, most of us were talking of our stupidity. Yes it's worth your time. Yes it's worth your $10 (or £7) admission fee. Downey Jr's Australian acting as a black man is worth it alone. Just make sure you don't read too many reviews and just go and see it. You don't want some evil reviewer revealing too much.
4.5 out of 10 (It'll offend some, most of the jokes you've seen before but it still makes you laugh and ultimately that is what it's all about).
Could someone tell me whether it was necessary to include Jack Black? His funniest scenes were in flashbacks and he contributed literally nothing to the proceedings.
UPDATE: How could they improve Tropic Thunder? It is so sad to see a movie with so much potential which isn't quite what you'd hoped for. In its 107 minute runtime only 25 minutes were worth the watch. The remaining time seemed like filler.