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Overall Rating

Awesome: 27.4%
Worth A Look47.95%
Average: 12.33%
Pretty Bad: 5.48%
Total Crap: 6.85%

6 reviews, 37 user ratings

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Tropic Thunder
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by William Goss

"The Clown Wars"
4 stars

Serving simultaneously as director, producer, co-writer and star for the first time since 2001’s exceedingly goofy 'Zoolander', it’s a minor miracle that Ben Stiller has seen fit to share as much of the spotlight in 'Tropic Thunder' as he does with his rather talented supporting cast, and doubly so that he managed this in a showbiz farce that is about as astute, absurd, and frequently funny as last winter’s overlooked 'Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story'.

With intimidated director Damien Cockburn (Steve Coogan) at the helm, the big-budget production of Tropic Thunder, based on the Vietnam War memoir of the same name by “Four-Leaf” Tayback (Nick Nolte, grizzled as ever), is only five days into shooting and already a month behind schedule. Following two explosions – one, a costly pyrotechnic marvel that the cameras manage to miss; the other, a violently profane tantrum from studio head Les Grossman (a disguised Tom Cruise) – a drunken and desperate Cockburn takes to heart Tayback’s suggestion that he dump his cast of prima donnas, including has-been action star Tugg Speedman (Stiller), drug-addled comedian Jeff Portnoy (Jack Black), and award-winning Method man Kirk Lazarus (Robert Downey Jr.), into the jungle in the name of dramatic effect and, inadvertently, into the territory of real-life heroin dealers in the name of misguided intentions.

Stiller’s Speedman has left his fans cold with an exhausted action franchise and an ill-advised attempt at Oscar glory as Simple Jack, although his agent (Matthew McConaughey) dotes on him regardless. Black’s Portnoy wants to offer the world something more than fat suits and fart jokes, though if the world offers him heroin in return, he minds a little less. Downey Jr.’s Lazarus is so dedicated to his craft that he’s opted to have his skin dyed in an effort to resemble his African-American character, much to the chagrin of an actually African-American co-star (Brandon T. Jackson). Cruise’s Grossman makes the most of crude gestures and worse language, while the film manages to make the least of Bill Hader as his sycophantic underling. Apatow alums Jay Baruchel and Danny McBride fare a bit better as a fledgling actor and a trigger-happy pyrotechnician, respectively, who appear to have been alone in actually having read the script or the book it was based on.

Whereas last week’s action-comedy, Pineapple Express, offered up a wish-fulfillment scenario of sorts where the protagonists were offered a seemingly endless supply of ammo with which to fire back on their foes with the perpetual threat of very real harm, the characters of Tropic Thunder are so disillusioned as to their shooting blanks that they inadvertently dodge almost every bullet that they think isn’t really being fired their way. Lazarus is the first to sense that real danger is abound, but even then, he refuses to drop his jive-talkin’ persona before the DVD commentary is recorded, a matter that leads to the best ‘dude’-off this side of Baseketball and a terrifically perceptive monologue about the nature of moderation when it comes to awards bids such as Speedman's. In an overall regard, though, it's satire that proves as comical as possible without actually doing any pointed harm to the targets in its sights.

The actors-facing-mistaken-identity conceit may not be a new one – ranging from before 'Three Amigos' to after 'Galaxy Quest' – but Stiller and friends manage to spike it with enough raunch and relevance to get by. The end result is relentlessly clever, reliably funny, and realistically excessive (it's shot, cut, and treated all-around like the equal of the very Hollywood bombast that it sends up), and there's a small comfort to be taken with any comedy that turns out to be more like 'The Ben Stiller Show' and not just a Ben Stiller show.

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originally posted: 08/15/08 10:37:22
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User Comments

3/25/18 morris campbell funny satire 4 stars
7/17/12 Jeff Wilder Amusing in spots. But doesn't satirize as much as copy. 3 stars
5/06/12 fartvenugen boring poopfest 2 stars
6/27/11 Ionicera Better first half than second half but overall watchable 4 stars
1/22/11 Chris F complete and utter trash 1 stars
9/04/09 CTT Smart comedy from Stiller 4 stars
8/12/09 RLan Very funny! Good performances from Cruise, McConaughey and Nolte. 4 stars
5/24/09 MP Bartley Sometimes it gets obsessed with its own cleverness, but otherwise a real hoot. 4 stars
3/02/09 KingNeutron Dear God it sucked SO BAD - why do I bother with Stiller movies anymore? 1 stars
2/09/09 Dianne Just did not get it. Waited for something funny. Husband & I sat thru it and wondered why. 2 stars
1/15/09 Matt It looked like a good idea. Unfortunately, so did the Titanic. 1 stars
12/24/08 Meredith Childish 1 stars
12/18/08 Jon G Funny stuff 4 stars
12/06/08 Jared Robb Very well written and acted, great comedy! 5 stars
11/21/08 matt slightly overhyped, but has its moments 4 stars
9/16/08 Ravenwest Best ! 5 stars
9/14/08 Annie G Even though I haven’t seen the movies being parodied, I found this fun, fun, fun! 4 stars
9/04/08 Rachel Best part = fake trailers at the beginning. Not the slightest bit offensive. 4 stars
9/02/08 damalc pretty funny but i agree with protesters, retard bit was offensive 3 stars
8/27/08 Quigley Despite highly entertaining performances from Downey Jr. and Cruise, don't even bother 2 stars
8/27/08 Random Aloha from Kaua'i. I never stopped laughing. I'll see it again to find friends as extras! 5 stars
8/22/08 Razzo Rizzo Agree with Gonsalves, Stiller and Black disappointing, Downey mumbles 3 stars
8/18/08 fan so much fun and right on. all were excellent. 5 stars
8/17/08 Samantha Pruitt pretty funny! RDJ was really great in it, i loved Jay Baruchel the best 4 stars
8/17/08 Margeaux Downey stole the movie! 4 stars
8/17/08 Darkstar Hot Damn! Funny as hell. 5 stars
8/17/08 George Barksdale This was very good, Ben Stiller seems to always make good movies 5 stars
8/17/08 John Elrod More truth to this than the average viewer realizes. Cruise's producer is Evil Personified. 5 stars
8/16/08 ron not enough space to say how many attributes this artful masterpiece has 5 stars
8/16/08 ahnold Piece of shit - unless you like all Ben Stiller movies. Not enough space to criticize fully 1 stars
8/16/08 Terry Suprised on how good it was. Boring beginning but it gets better every minute after! 5 stars
8/16/08 Kishuta Awesome! This is how parody movies should be. 5 stars
8/15/08 crltn fantabulous 5 stars
8/15/08 bruno priani it was better than a blowjob, and thats a lot 5 stars
8/15/08 jcjs hilariously clever, acting, scenes, pyrothecnics, constant humor, fun, ya leave refreshed 5 stars
8/13/08 Nick Digilio The Funniest Movie of the Year....EASILY 5 stars
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  13-Aug-2008 (R)
  DVD: 18-Nov-2008


  DVD: 18-Nov-2008

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