Tropic Thunder -Movie review

Tropic Thunder

Tropic Thunder has just reached my local dollar theater, a tell-tale sign that it'll soon show up on DVD, which is probably a more suitable viewing format than the price of a full fledged theater ticket. Following in the footsteps of The Three Amigos, Tropic Thunder adopts the familiar premise of a group of actors unaware that the film they were supposedly making is in fact a reality. The following review functions under the over-arching opinion that The Three Amigos is not only a successful comedy, but a classic film, and as such will be comparatively analyzed.

To begin, Tropic Thunder is, at times, a very funny movie. Despite the familiarity in it's premise, the film shows no lack of ingenuity. The very first minutes throw the audience a brilliant curve-ball while also functioning as a brilliant character introduction. This doesn't mean that the film doesn't take shortcuts. The film heavily relies on surprise cameos, which while being initially funny, begin to wear out their welcome with prolonged screen time. But I'm getting ahead of myself. The story functions around a collection of various actors, all assembled to make a motion picture based off an infamous war novel. Ben Stiller is primarily featured as Tugg, an action hero in a slump after his previous film "Simple Jack," a film about a retarded horse whisperer, failed at the box office. Jack Black is a heroine addicted version of Eddie Murphy, and spends the duration of the film in withdrawal. Brandon T. Jackson is a rapper who takes time off from promoting his merchandise to call out Kirk Lazarus, played by Robert Downey Jr. All of them are fantastic in their portrayal, but Robert Downey Jr. simply steals the picture. His character within a character somehow manages to have even more layers beyond that, and behind his blindingly blue eyes there is a certain amount of subtlety worth noticing.

There's a lot to like here. I know that, but deep inside I felt slightly sick after watching it.

This film is not The Three Amigos, it's not supposed to be. The film is coarse and violent, and it manages to turn those attributes into genuinely funny qualities. If you don't believe me, just watch the fountain of blood coming out of a special-effects head-wound early in the film. I haven't laughed that hard in a while. But the film features little to no redemption for it's characters. Whereas Steve Martin, Chevy Chase, and Martin Short learned a valuable life lesson is contrast to their previous Hollywood lifestyle, these characters only gain an acting lesson from reality. There is one fatal flaw to Tropic Thunder, and that is the complete and utter non-endearing qualities of it's characters. You might like them, but you also might like them not to make it out of the jungle.

Comical pacing in the film's structure is also oddly absent. The very concept is dependent upon build up and revelation. Instead, one land-mine goes off and the characters immediately accept their situation. There's no suspension of disbelief, there's no group of characters left in the dark. The only mistaken identity is that of "Simple Jack," and it serves as the highlight of the film. It's a tragic missed opportunity in humor.

I laughed a whole lot during Tropic Thunder, but I'm not necessarily sure I liked it for it's personality. It's that friend you think is funny but only because he's oblivious to what a jerk he is. It certainly warrants a viewing, but an inexpensive one on a lazy night. Overall, it's dollar movie night material, but it certainly earns that dollar.

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