23 October 2008 | Simon_Says_Movies
A lightning quick wit!
Damn, is Robert Downey Jr. on a roll
Rarely (if they occur at all) have comebacks been so bold and so memorable. When slated to star as Tony Stark in May's Iron Man which kicked off the blockbuster season with a bang and a slap, the public, excluding his die-hard supporters of course, were baffled at the atypical casting choice of the Marvel hero. For myself, I have always loved Downey Jr. from his excellent portrayal as Charlie Chapin, to his perfectly suited role in Shane Black's Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, he is always the best thing about a film. Lightening struck again (or I suppose first, if you want to follow his career chronologically) midyear with his smart portrayal as an overprotective principal in Charlie Bartlet, so it only seems suitable for him to cap off the summer with his best work yet.
Directed by, and starring Ben Stiller, Tropic Thunder is an epically vast improvement over the suicide inducing effort that was Zoolander and finds Stiller in his best comedic acting form since Meet the Parents. Our adventure follows a group of primadonna actors who are shooting a high budget war epic in Vietnam. As director Damien Cockburn (Steve Coogan) sees his funds draining and his production falling apart at the hands of the maddeningly inept cast, the inspiration for the movie "Four Leaf" Tayback (Nick Nolte) suggests that the film would be better shot guerrilla style using hidden cameras and some improvisation. But, after a series of unfortunate (but hilarious) events leave the troupe stranded, they must both save the picture which their careers are riding on, and possibly themselves at the same time. Adding the flavour to this endeavour are Tugg Speedman (Stiller) as a flailing action has-been, Jack Black, who has also had a successful year, as Jeff Portnoy, an Eddie Murphy-esquire comic, Apatow regular Jay Baruchel as Kevin Sandusky, rapper turned actor Alpha Chino (Brandon T. Jackson) and of course Kirk Lazarus (Downey Jr.) as the Oscar winning method actor. We also get career high cameo and supporting work from various familiar Hollywood faces, Mathew McConaughey and the much buzzed appearance by Tom Cruise, who is simply fantastic.
The most satisfying aspect of Tropic Thunder is that despite show stealing work from Cruise and Downey Jr. everyone gets their slice of the comedy pie. One actor is never in the spotlight too much, and nobody hogs the funny too much. And boy is there a lot of funny; this film is one of, if not the best satire made about Hollywood and the jokes come high and low, subtly and bluntly, and they almost always strike home. Controversy has been in the air surrounding both Downey Jr.'s blackface portrayal as an African American and gags surrounding a film Tugg Speedman had previously filmed in which he was mentally handicapped. While it is inevitable that some will be offended, it is important to remember that both of these jabs are not against such groups, but against Hollywood who churns out method actors who take their job with a block of salt, not a grain. Even complaints I have read regarding this film I see as intentional inclusions by Stiller, who I believe has been in the business too long to have done such without careful thought and consideration.
The film starts without warning with a series of phony trailers featuring the stars of the feature, and are some of the funniest segments I have ever seen, especially that of Downey Jr.'s. Tropic Thunder does not let up however as the ready to quote one-lines, again mostly from Downey Jr. and Cruise, come so fast you will have to make a list once the film has concluded. All in all, this picture is what we needed, a biting satire/spoof that doesn't have the word Movie after it. With a similar action/comedy hybrid formula as this year's Pineapple Express (which both star Danny McBride), Tropic Thunder pours on the laughs like a storm and presents a wit that is nothing less then lightening quick.
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