CON: Tropic Thunder!
PLOT: Director Damien Cockburn is struggling to get his epic war movie "Tropic Thunder" made. His actors - including action star Tugg Speedman (Ben Stiller), Oscar-winner Kirk Lazarus (Robert Downey, Jr.) and drugged out comedian Jeff Portnoy (Jack Black) - are pampered and fighting on set. So Cockburn dumps his five actors in the middle of the jungle to film them guerrilla style. Though they think they're filming a movie, actual mercenaries are on their tail trying to snuff them out.
REVIEW: Back in March I shared some thoughts on TROPIC THUNDER footage I had seen, preaching even back then its awesomeness. A few months later having finally seen the entire film, I am happy to report that it's just as insanely funny as I had hoped.
This movie has more laughs before the DreamWorks logo pops up than most supposed comedies have in their entire 90 minutes. Before the film starts we're treated to a commercial (for Booty Sweat energy drink and Bust-A-Nut protein bars) and three trailers (Speedman's SCORCHER VI, Lazarus' SATAN'S ALLEY and Portnoy's THE FATTIES: FART 2). Seeing Robert Downey, Jr. and Tobey Maguire star in a movie about gay monks in a monastery is only the beginning...
As the "Tropic Thunder" movie is filming its climactic scene, stars Speedman and Lazarus are battling over who should be crying while an overzealous FX guy (Danny McBride) fires off their big pyrotechnic stunt when the cameras aren't rolling. Maria Menounos reports on "Extra" that the film is $50 million over budget after a week of shooting. This does not please the head of the studio (Tom Cruise). Desperate to save his job and his movie, Cockburn teams with the author the book is based on (Nick Nolte) on a plan to dump the actors "in the shit" and film them with hidden cameras. It's here we take off on a familiar story (like THREE AMIGOS or A BUG'S LIFE) where actors are mistaken for the real deal and must act like the real deal if they want to survive.
Though it may have a similar premise to movies you've seen before, you've certainly never seen anything like TROPIC THUNDER. As hilarious as anything I've seen since BORAT, TROPIC THUNDER boasts so many jokes per-minute, a second viewing is almost mandatory. Downey, Jr. and Black are particularly on fire with RDJ continuing his IRON MAN hot streak. This guy is a legitimate comedic threat. Black also strays further from his normal schtick to play an addict trying to kick the habit in the jungle (the teeth gnashing kills me).
Of course no review would be complete without mentioning Tom Cruise. While his bit is a little bit more than a cameo, he does have some of the funniest scenes in the movie. His vulgar rant on the phone against what he thinks is a talent agency trying to steal his "Tropic Thunder" star got a huge round of applause from the theater and deservedly so. If someone this summer tells you to "take a step back and f*ck yourself in the face," you'll know who to thank.
It's rare that you see a raunchy comedy so grand in its scale and Stiller certainly has delivered on his end. The cinematography by John Toll (who filmed Terrance Malick's war epic THE THIN RED LINE) is beautiful even when you're looking at a half-naked Jack Black go into graphic detail on how he'll pay anyone back who helps him get some heroin.
The only low point for me was Matthew McConaughey as Speedman's agent. His subplot including a Tivo turns out to be crucial to the story but in between never served up to offer many laughs (if you'll remember this was the role originally intended for Owen Wilson).
TROPIC THUNDER is one of those rare big-budget comedies that actually delivers on its promise to make you laugh. Unlike EVAN ALMIGHTY, which makes you wonder where all its money went, TROPIC THUNDER shows of a beautiful looking film that also happens to be hilariously R-rated. Movies like this don't get made very often as things are getting watered down to PG-13 to allow for a wider audience so make sure you appreciate a movie of its kind when it comes along.
RATING - 8/10
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