Headlined by an all star cast of Ben Stiller, Robert Downey Jr, Jack Black, Tom Cruise, and supported by Matthew McConaughey, Nick Nolte as well as a throng of guest appearances, Tropic Thunder was one of the larger releases this summer. The movie profits were especially buoyed by Robert Downey’s heroic turn in "Iron Man" earlier in the year.
For the most part I found it an enjoyable experience, and while I didn’t burst a lung laughing out loud, I was entertained, and found the one liners spouted by each of the actors as the best part of the movie. Most outstanding were the performances of Tom Cruise as a foul mouthed studio boss and Robert Downey Jr. as an award winning dramatic actor who in order to maintain his method acting style undergoes plastic surgery to truly become his character.
While most people enjoyed the movie, there was a significant amount of press due to the films treatment of the mentally retarded. Personally, I could see where most of the protests were coming but in the end I am not sure if the director (Stiller in his latest effort since "Zoolander") really had any intention of demeaning those with mental handicaps. I really think it was more of a commentary on actors who feel the only way to win an academy award is to look ugly (ie. Nicole Kidman in the "The Hours", Charlize Theron in "Monster" etc) or mentally handicapped (Tom Hanks in "Forrest Gump")
The story follows a group of over paid actors, fitting various generic Hollywood actor stereotypes, who are brought together in order to make a big budget Vietnam movie. All their demands and prima donna ways get to the director an it is decided that they will be dropped in the middle of the jungle with cameras strategically placed through out and they will have to see themselves out by following the script to the end (We are asked to believe that the director is part Deity and knows where these idiots are going to stumble to in the dense jungle). Of course, none of this goes to plan and they are set down in a real hot zone, full of drug cartel bad guys looking to capture or kill them, miraculously though, all the action is captured by the magic cameras placed through out the jungle.
The story is way too convoluted and crazy to really fully describe, with various plot lines also involving agents and studio bosses. Needless to say that the story is really making fun of Hollywood and no one is really left out.
Unfortunately, for Plebs like us who are not privileged enough to work on a movie set or deal with actors many of the inside jokes and winks to the industry ultimately go over the viewers head. Meaning that most of the intelligence of the comedy doesn’t really translate to the audience, what we are left with then is crass jokes about the mentally handicapped, blood and gore as well as simplified jokes and gags that needed to be inserted so that most people would consider it a comedy.
Not to say that I didn’t like it, Stiller knows how to keep the masses happy and ultimately that is what he does.
One of the best parts of the film is trying to figure out which real actor they are lampooning. Here is a list of the characters and description of who they are. I also included a couple of the actors that I think inspired the writers, mind you this is only a couple of the caricatures in the movie, it would take way too long to do them all:
Kirk Lazurus- (Robert Downy Jr.)- Method actor from Australia who ultimately transforms into the character is playing. Has won multiple academy awards and is reclusive and standoffish with the media.
Possible real life people: The first person that comes to mind is Russell Crowe with his being an Australian award winning actor with various run ins with the paparazzi as well as Robert Downy Jr. who himself really is a method actor with various stories about him maintaining character will after the director has called cut.
Tugg Speedman- (Ben Stiller)- aging action star, who has been pigeon holed due to his fading "Scorcher" movie franchise. He took a swing for the fences by portraying a mentally challenged ("full Retard") man in a movie called "Happy Jack" that ultimately blew up in his face.
Possible real life person: Well as for the action movie star you can take your pick. Sylvester Stallone, Jean Claude Van Damme, Steven Segal etc, etc, there appears to be no end to the list. It gets more interesting in the actors playing mentally changed character. For this you have Tom Hanks (‘Forrest Gump") Dustin Hoffman ("Rain Man") or Sean Penn ("I am Sam").
Jeff "Fats" Portnoy- (Jack Black)- Drug addled comedian who’s made his money on movies based on fart jokes.
Possible real life person: This one was one of the easiest, based on the fake trailers that ran in the beginning of the film, the character is based on Eddie Murphy’s later career. Especially his movies "The Klumps" and "Norbit", throw in a drugged up Robin Williams from the late 70s and 80s and you are all set.
Less Grossman-(Tom Cruise)- Crazy studio boss.
Possible real life person: I really don’t know any studio bosses, other than the boss that died on "Entourage" a couple of episodes ago. But from what I saw, they are mean, pissed of bulldogs that will bit off your head and piss on you. Tom Cruise is hilarious in the role, and surprisingly gets a lot of screen time. I think that it is really the end of Tom’s time as a headliner in movies, and parts like these which show that he is actually human rather than a religious zealot is pretty refreshing and certainly needed for his public perception. It almost makes me like him.
Now the questions at hand, do I think it worthy to be seen and watch by my fellow readers? Well I would say so, there is enough entertaining material in the movie that would appeal to mostly everyone. Would I take my girlfriend or wife? Well there are a couple of gory parts that they might not like but overall I think the girls will like it too. Too bad it is already out of the theatres. Alas, do not worry my friends, the movie is coming out on DVD this month. Enjoy.