Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Movie Review: Tropic Thunder

Tropic Thunder reminds me of why I don't see comedies in theaters much anymore: They are rarely worth the 10 bucks. The funniest parts of this movie are the fake trailers and Tom Cruise's cameo performance. While this is far from a bad movie, it isn't a great movie. It doesn't give you that "feel good" feeling when you walk out of a really good movie, nor does it make you repeat great or funny lines to the people you saw it with over and over after you walk out.

It could have been that I had high expectations going into it, or the great cast, or even the very favorable reviews that caused me to feel a little underwhelmed, but after I left the theater, I didn't really have any urges to talk about it, much less think about it.

The Gist

I'll be quick with this as I'm sure the trailers have given you the lowdown. The movies premise is about three actors (Ben Stiller, Robert Downey Jr., and Jack Black) all coming together to make this epic war film. Each of their characters come from different film backgrounds. Ben Stiller being the typical Stallone/Schwarzenegger action hero, Downey being the academy award winning method actor, and Jack Black who stars in films where he gets into fat suits and plays all the parts a la Eddie Murphy. The "fake" film turns out to be a studio disaster, so the director decides--by the prodding of Nick Nolte's war hero character whom the fake film is based on--to take the actors and drop them off in the jungle to create a "real" movie. Comedy ensues....right?

The Good
1)Fake trailers 2)Roberty Downy Jr. 3)Jack Black 4)Tom Cruise.

1. I don't want to go into details, just trust me on this. The first five minutes of the movie is probably the best...unfortunately.

2. This is what happens when you get a real actor in a hollywood comedy, it fucking works. Downey Jr. has proved himself once again to be a versatile actor that can just about fill any role. Even though his role is stereotypical--which is the point anyway--he brings much more than you'd expect to the character unlike what Dave Chapelle or the Wayan's do in the same case. So the moral? White dudes can play black dudes much better than black dudes can play white dudes.

3. Jack Black is Jack Black in this film. With dramatic actors, most people applaud versatility, but it seems with comedic actors it's more about the persona and in this case you get what you'd expect. Which is great since I find him fucking hilarious. Despite many reviews I've read about him being "underused" in this film, I completely disagree. He brings a lot of laughs and doesn't unbalance the film by trying to steal the show. The best scenes with him are when he's going through drug withdrawls, funny shit, I promise. That's one thing I love about this movie, is that all of the actors work well together and there isn't any obvious "battle for laughs."

4. And on to my favorite performance. Tom Cruise as hollywood executive Les Grossman. He's in a fat suit, he's bald, he's hairy, and he says "fuck" about two times in every line he has. I probably laughed more when Tom Cruise was on screen than any of the other actors. It could be due to the fact that he has never played a character like this and it was pretty unexpected unless you've read any reviews, but nonetheless it was funny as hell.

The Not So Good
Ben Stiller. I'm not sure if this is due to hils role in the film or just the fact that he is pretty much a limp dick when it comes to comedy lately. He was never funny in this movie, even when he tried to get cheap laughs with the panda routine.

Downey Jr. pulled his role off beautifully, but he wasn't given enough great lines. His character was begging for it and for some reason the writers decided to play a different hand. Probably the two out of three funniest lines he gets you have already heard in the trailer.

Matthew McConaughey as Ben Stiller's agent. This role was originally written for Owen Wilson and it shows. McConaughey just can't pull off comedy very well and it is very apparent in this movie. I can't totally blame the guy since he was obviously completely out of place and trying to fill a role, number 1, not written for him, and number 2, out of his league.

One last thing. About 30 minutes or so into this film I was really expecting the worst. It had a strong start, then slumped really really bad for awhile, but thankfully gave a few good laughs in the third act.

The Verdict
Tropic Thunder falls short of being a classic, but doesn't fail to deliver some good laughs along the way despite a boring second act. My favorite thing about this movie is how it makes fun of all the bullshit comedy you see pumped out into theaters and the mindless public flock to go see. From the fat suit comedies, to the stereotypical roles, to the hiphop endoresments (bootysweat and bust a nut). This film ALMOST seems like a truly independent effort without the push of hollywood executives which is great. You can almost count the scenes where executives probably gave their feedback or forced the writers to alter in some way. I can't say this movie is worth a 10 dollar ticket prices, but definitely a matinee and obviously a rent. If anything go see it for Tom Cruise, and Jack Black's drug withdrawls, you won't be disappointed.

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