Saturday, April 17, 2010

Tropic Thunder (2008)

Even though I have a limited knowledge in films,* I'm sure that there are many films out there that poke fun at Hollywood. Obviously, I doubt that Tropic Thunder is, by any stretch, the best film that does that. Nevertheless, the film can be quite funny without being downright mindless.
A Hollywood studio is trying to make a film on the Vietnam War based on the memoir of Sgt. John "Four Leaf" Tayback (Nick Nolte). However, the production of the film is behind schedule, because young director Damian Cockburne (Steve Coogan) can't control his stars: Thug Speedman (Ben Stiller), an action star, Kirk Lazarus (Robert Downey Jr.), a multiple Oscar-winner, Jeff Portnoy (Jack Black), a fat comedian, and Alpha Chino (Brandon T. Jackson), a rapper. Moreover, the only actor who behaves correctly is Kevin Sandusky (Jay Baruchel), a young actor who takes his role seriously.

Since Les Grossman (Tom Cruise), the film's producer, wants the production to be over, Damian and John finds a way to finish the film. Without telling Grossman, Damian decides to transport the five actors out of Vietnam and sends them to the Golden Triangle. While the actors don't know that they're fighting against real drug traffickers, Damian intends to film the actors from afar with hidden cameras that are installed in the jungles and even in the drug traffickers' base. Besides, in order to add more realism, explosives will be installed in some places where an "action scene" needs to be filmed.

I'm personally not a fan of comedies. Nevertheless, one has to recognize that Tropic Thunder is a somehow cleverly written satire that isn't afraid to exaggerate at times. While it laughs at Hollywood and the production of a war film, it avoids being completely pathetic to death. With this film, Ben Stiller succeeds in ridiculing actors who bust their ass to play in a war film without knowing how the real war is whether they go through a bootcamp or not.

Furthermore, without the performance from its cast, the film wouldn't even be worth watching. The one who definitely steals the spotlight is Robert Downey Jr. While he's playing an Australian actor who intensively prepares for his role and stays in character mode for the time of the production, you just can't stop yourself from laughing. After all, it reminded me so much of Daniel Day-Lewis (Gangs of New York). As for Ben Stiller (Meet the Parents), he does an excellent job by combining seriousness and goofiness.

Finally, despite not being the smartest comedy I've seen, Tropic Thunder wouldn't have difficulty to please to people. Unlike Scary Movie, which was a parody of horror films, Tropic Thunder allows us to mock the whole process of producing a war film without being vulgar. Moreover, even though the film might not be accurate, it smartly laughs at things that are actually being done in the movie industry.

Rating: 3.5/5

Origin:USA (2008)
Length:120 minutes
Screenplay:Ben Stiller, Justin Theroux and Etan Cohen
Director:Ben Stiller
Ben Stiller, Robert Downey Jr., Jack Black, Brandon T. Jackson and Jay Baruchel
* I didn't study films in university.

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