15
Aug
08

Movie Review: Tropic Thunder

 

 

Get on da choppah!

 

Starring Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Robert Downey, Jr., Steve Coogan, Nick Nolte, Matthew McConnaughey, and Tom Cruise. Directed by Ben Stiller

 

Before the movie even starts, we’re introduced to fake trailers for films the characters are advertising: Tugg Speedman (Ben Stiller) is an action movie star who has to save an Earth that has been cooled-over in “Scorcher VI: The Meltdown.” Jack Fortnoy (Jack Black) plays every character in a comedy about a family who lives together and farts together in “The Farties: Fart Two.” Kirk Lazarus (Robert Downey, Jr.) is a monk having unholy carnal relations with fellow monk Tobey Maguire in “Satan’s Alley.”

 

The movie then starts with narration by Nick Nolte (who plays Four Leaf Tayback) who recounts a story about a group of ten guys who went into the jungles of Viet Nam: four of the men came back. Of those four, three wrote books. Of those three books, two were published. Of the two, one got a movie deal…

 

And so begins the story of the making of the most expensive war movie ever made.

 

After an opening that’s more than a whiff of “Apocalypse Now,” things go wrong. We’re slowly introduced to the characters: Tugg Speedman is an action movie star whose career is on the skids because of too many “Scorcher” movies, and “Simple Jack,” a box office bomb where he played a mentally handicapped guy who could talk with animals. Jack Fortnoy is a comedian whose renown for farting is only matched by his drug addictions (which includes sniffing glue). Kirk Lazarus is a 5-time Oscar-winning Australian actor who undergoes experimental pigmentation surgery to play the black Sergeant; he never breaks character “until the DVD commentary is finished.” Added to the mix is Alpa Chino (Brandon T. Jackson) a hip-hop artist who hocks his energy drink Booty Sweat as well as his protein bar, Bust-A-Nut. Last is Kevin Sandusky (Jay Baruchel), the nerdy white guy who did something none of the others did: he actually read the book AND the screenplay.

 

When director Damien Cockburn (Steve Coogan) is threatened by producer Les Grossman (Tom Cruise) who wants to shut down the production, he turns to the sage advice of Four Leaf Tayback, who tells him, “you gotta put them in the real shit.” Jumping into a chopper the next morning the platoon, along with director, Tayback, and pyrotechnics guy, fly into the jungle. Cockburn tells them that they’re making it “real,” and that cameras are placed in strategic areas to give a gritty feel to the movie. After Cockburn steps on a landmine and blows up, the actors are by themselves with at least 3/5 of them believing what Cockburn said.

 

As they traverse through the jungle they’re spotted by the Flaming Dragons, an Asian heroin-producing faction. The group winds up separating and Tuggman eventually gets caught and tortured, then made to perform the entirety of “Simple Jack” (“Dodgeball” never made it to their video store?) The rest of the group now must band together and bring back Tuggman.

 

There ya go. That’s the story pretty much summed up. While everything that was funny was in the movie, the movie has points that are a lot funnier. Like when Tuggman kills a panda (inside movie joke). Or when Lazarus has the “never go full retard” speech with Tuggman. Or when Fortnoy is tied-up to a tree and wants loose, and describes what he would do for the person who helps him out. Or when Lazarus (who looks more like Rayden than a rice farmer) sprays bullets from a machine gun on each arm. Or even when Grossman yells into a phone, “I want you to take a step back and f- yourself in the face.”

 

Aside from the blatant ripping on “Apocalypse Now,” and “Platoon,” and shallowness of the characters involved, the underlying theme of it all is reality versus fiction. When even the guy who wrote the book the screenplay was based on is a fake, what is real? Where do the lines between fact and fiction lie? Then again, maybe I’m looking too deeply into it all.

 

While there are some general LOL moments, and some stuff I got that other people didn’t, I felt like I had ordered fast food as opposed to a full meal. Maybe I wanted a little more from the movie, or maybe I was over-hyped. Either way, it was good but not a lot more than surface level.

 

My grade: B

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