Monday, June 29, 2009

Day 140: Tropic Thunder (2008) - Rank 4.5/5


This is a comedy that works on so many levels. The most obvious level is the straightforward plot - a group of pretentious actors on the set of "Tropic Thunder" are thrown into real combat by their director to make their performances more realistic. The funnier level is the fact that the film is a parody of Hollywood - from its self-absorbed agents to the studios focused on making films that are intended to be box office smashes and not works of cinema that demand a level of intelligence. The funniest level, however, is the self-parody and self-satire.

Jack Black, for instance, is intended to be a parody of the modern-day, shameless Eddie Murphy - an actor that makes one stupid, gross-out or gimmicky comedy after the next. Yet in his own repertoire he carries "Shallow Hal" and "Envy." Ben Stiller's Tug Speedman shills one franchise after the next for all its worth, yet thanks to Ben Stiller, I lost two hours of my life watching "Meet the Fockers" and I successfully avoided the second "Night at the Museum." Then of course, "Little Fockers" is on the way...Then comes Robert Downey Jr. whose parody of Oscar and arthouse favorite Russell Crowe is far from subtle, yet Downey followed the film with "The Soloist." The film itself is a major studio, summer blockbuster, explosion filled action-comedy that blatantly mocks studios for making films of its very type. It's like watching someone stand in front of a mirror, flip themselves off and laugh maniacally. Sooner or later you can't resist and start laughing along.

Every film parody in "Tropic Thunder" is brilliant as well, especially the trailer for "Satan's Alley," an art pic about gay monks starring Robert Downey Jr.'s Kirk Lazarus and Tobey Maguire. And then there's Tom Cruise who absolutely steals the show in a nearly unrecognizable makeup job as the delightfully foul-mouthed studio executive in charge of the project. If Robert Downey Jr. merited an Oscar nomination nod (which he did) then certainly Cruise did as well. To focus on one moment would be difficult, because I was laughing straight through, but there is one image that comes to mind that sent me over the edge. Nick Nolte with hooks for hands...Jesus Christ...

Watch the Trailer

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