Posted by: Dr P | June 11, 2009

Tropic Thunder

I’m starting this review on a bit of a high note, as there’s an advert for Bryan Adams on the telly, and I’m a bit of a sucker for his uptempo AOR classics – Run To You and Summer of 69 ar eperfect examples of the genre. “Everything I Do” on the other hand should be flushed down the toilet, along with anyone who likes it.

We really fancied Tropic Thunder; aside from having a title which would not have been out of place in a Hulk Hogan movie of the late 1980s, it had oodles of potential. Jack Black, Ben Stiller and Robert Downey Jr … three comedy giants. I absolutely love Jack Black, his completely manic School of Rock style humour is fantastic, while Stiller plays it for laughs in a much “straighter” way, being the butt of jokes rather than making them.

OK the premise is simple. Our three heroes are movie giants who have been brought together to make the greatest war movie ever, directed by an up and coming director played by our very own Steve Coogan. In a bid to spice things up and get the best out of the stars, Coogan dumps them right in the heart of the jungle with no real script and only vague script outlines, a sort of Blair Witch tactic. Unfortunately (for him in particular) he steps on a live land mine immediately, signalling the fact that the actors are not so much making a war movie, but are in a genuinely hostile environment.

Diverting back to the start of the film, we get off to a rollicking start as rather than introduce the characters in their real lives, we are shown trailers for their latest movies – these are absolutely wonderful, perfect spoofs of big budget blockbuster trailers, and set the tone of the film perfectly. Downey Jr plays “Kirk Lazarus”, a multi-time Oscar winner, Stiller is action hero “Tugg Speedman”, and Black is Jeff Portnoy, an actor who gets his kicks and money by grossing out audiences.

Our next surprise is to meet Les Grossman, the maniacal movie mogul financing the film. He is a foul mouthed, vile creature … played by Tom Cruise! If you’ve seen Magnolia, you’ll know that Cruise actually plays these seedy, vulgar characters brilliantly. He’s a total riot in this, sweating his head off, making all sorts of crude remarks, and is fully prepared to have his action stars actually die in the jungle than compromise the film shoot!

Back to the action, and Stiller’s band of jungle fighters is quickly divided. Stiller is captured by a guerrila group, who immediately make a massive ransom demand for him. Meanwhile they get their kicks by making him reprise his movie role as a mentally challenged farmhand which the head of their organisation is a fan of! Stupendous.

Downey Jr is wonderful in this film. He has been cast as a black man, and in a bid to make it “real”, he actually has his skin pigmented to make him look like an afro-american. This has the most amusing side-effect of giving him a brilliant attitude, and a great accent too! Some of his one liners and his interaction with the genuine african-american in the group are worth the entrance fee alone.

Stiller’s agent (another delicious cameo performance from Matthew McConnaughey) is determined to rescue his charge, while the remaining actors also decide to go after their compatriot. Together with a special effects crew, they stage a daring raid on the guerrila camp, with some surprising results …

This is a really enjoyable film, with standout performances from Cruise, Stiller and Downey Jr in particular. Jack Black is not at his best, but provides a good foil for the others as a drug-crazed actor in desperate need of a fix at every possible opportunity. McConnaughey is also well worth watching.

It provides excellent satire of Hollywood and the film industry, portraying the actors as egomaniacs and the studios as power crazed and willing to make any sacrifice in the name of making money. Probably a little closer to the bone than many would be comfortable with! Enjoy!

Some memorable moments:

Kirk Lazarus: [to Tugg Speedman] What do you mean, “you people?” [taking racial offence at a Speedman remark]
Alpa Chino: [the real African-American: stares at Lazarus, and then gets angry] What do *you* mean, “you people?”
Kirk Lazarus: Huh?!

Tugg Speedman: There were times while I was playing Jack where I felt…

[pause]
Tugg Speedman: …retarded. Like, really retarded.
Kirk Lazarus: Damn!
Tugg Speedman: In a weird way I had to sort of just free myself up to believe that is was ok to be stupid or dumb.
Kirk Lazarus: To be a moron.
Tugg Speedman: Yeah!
Kirk Lazarus: To be moronical.
Tugg Speedman: Exactly, to be a moron.
Kirk Lazarus: An imbecile.
Tugg Speedman: Yeah!
Kirk Lazarus: Like the dumbest mother fucker that ever lived.
Tugg Speedman: [pause] When I was playing the character.

Tugg Speedman: This is insane. Are you really going to abandon this movie? We’re supposed to be a unit!
Kirk Lazarus: Suck my unit.

Studio Executive Rob Slolom: Wow. 8 Oscars, 400 million dollars at the box office, and you saved Tugg Speedman’s career.
Les Grossman: I couldn’t have done it without you.
Studio Executive Rob Slolom: Really?
Les Grossman: No, dickhead. Of course I could. A nutless monkey could do your job. Now, go get drunk and take credit at all the parties.

Jeff Portnoy: So, what’s the plan, man? You gonna talk Vietnamese to those dudes?
Kirk Lazarus: No, no. Mandarin Chinese. What I can tell, it’s what they’re speaking down there.
Jeff Portnoy: How the hell do you know Chinese?
Kirk Lazarus: Land of Silk and Money with Gong Li. Second Globe, third Oscar. I prepped for that one by working in a Beijing textile factory for eight months.

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