Summer movie season has come to an end, and luckily it ended on a solid note. Ben Stiller, Jack Black, and Robert Downey Jr. have brought a satire worth seeing to the screen. Thanks to a clever script, great performances, and Ben Stiller’s directing talent, Tropic Thunder is a treat.
Starting off with some fake trailers for Tugg Speedman (Stiller), Jeff Portnoy (Black) and Kirk Lazarus’s (Downey) new films set the mood perfectly for the next two hours of entertainment. The fake trailers jab at the movie industry’s never-ending quest for money, attachment to sequels and love for overwhelmingly artsy films, proving that Stiller and company have no qualms about making fun of themselves.
Once the fake entertainment has ended, the real story begins. Tropic Thunder is actually about the attempted making of the most epic war movie ever – Tropic Thunder. The problem is that the film is having a few issues getting started and already hemorrhaging money.
In an effort to save his film and give it the gritty reality he wants, director Damien Cockburn (Steve Coogan) takes the actors from the safety of their set and drops them in the jungle, a decision that leaves the crew in a grittier situation than they bargained for.
What makes Tropic Thunder work is the commitment of everyone involved. Stiller, Black, and Downey give it their all, and it is obvious they are having fun. The actors are all great comedic talents, but for once they all seem to be cast appropriately. We didn’t need to see Ben Stiller play another awkward, nice guy; he is more interesting when he’s playing a tough guy who’s still a loser, like his character in Dodgeball.
Robert Downey Jr. typically plays a smart-mouthed cynic; here, he completely breaks the mold by playing an award-winning Australian actor who undergoes a medical procedure to become a black man for his new role.
The complete absurdity of the situation has the potential to pull you out of the movie, but in the framework of being a satire and the strength of Downey’s talent, the absurdity makes the movie all the more fun.
Clearly the film has strong comedic elements, but the action sequences are impressive as well. Tropic Thunder shares similarities with Pineapple Express, another action-comedy of late, in that both films are able to shift between action and comedy without it feeling forced.
This is largely in part due to Stiller’s ability to direct an action scene in the context of the satire, making it both exciting in the way an action scene should be as well as over-the-top and hilarious in the way Hollywood unintentionally makes them.
The only drawback to Tropic Thunder would be how the film seems to drag during the middle of the movie.
After a hilarious and visually overloaded beginning, the meandering of the actors through the jungle subdues the intensity of the movie, even if it is still funny.
The end of the film recovers beautifully by returning to the absurdity that made the beginning so funny.
Tropic Thunder is a great way to finish out the summer season at the theater, providing all of the elements moviegoers want in a blockbuster: big names, big explosions, and big laughs.