Friday, January 28, 2011

Tropic Thunder

I remember seeing the ads for Tropic Thunder and thinking it would be pretty funny. I really wanted to see it, but I guess I wasn't yet old enough, seeing as it was rated R. As the years went by, I started to remember wanting to see the movie, especially after watching The Pick of Destiny. Having finally seen this movie, I can say that it was a lot better than I had expected, with witty comedy and a great cast to boot.

The movie is mainly about a group of actors attempting to make a Vietnam War film based on a book called Tropic Thunder, written by John "Four Leaf" Tayback (Nick Nolte). After news that the movie is a month behind schedule after only five days of shooting(!), the Director, Damien Cockburn (Steve Coogan), decides to drop them in the middle of a jungle in an attempt to save the movie. After Damien's unexpected death, the actors must continue playing their roles, surviving on their acting skills alone. Eventually, the actors part ways with Speedman after finding out he was leading them astray, which eventually causes him to get captured by heroin manufacturers. The rest of the actors stumble upon this and must use their own skills to save him.

Before the movie begins, however, the viewer gets to see a series of fake trailers and ads related to the actors, displaying what they normally do. The rapper Alpa Chino (Brandon T. Jackson) uses an ad to push an energy drink called Booty Sweat and a bar called Bust-A-Nut; Actor Tugg Speedman (Ben Stiller) stars in the movie "Scorcher VI: Global Meltdown," the sixth in the "Scorcher" action film series about the end of the world; Jeff Portnoy (Jack Black) is in a movie called "The Fatties: Fart 2," which serves as a parody of Eddie Murphy's "Nutty Professor II: The Klumps" in that he plays every role and the film features toilet humor; and Multi-Academy Award Winner, and method actor, Kirk Lazarus (Robert Downey Jr.) stars in a film called "Satan's Alley" with Tobey McGuire in the vein of "Brokeback Mountain." For "Tropic Thunder," the actors are joined by newcomer Kevin Sandunsky (Jay Baruchel), who seems to be the only character who prepared for his role, even being the only one who read the book or the movie script. Of course, the personalities of each character clash when they are in the jungle, which serves as the main engine of humor in the film, and it is very well written and timed.

The humor is further enhanced by the flaws that these characters have, which makes for great humor, such as an instance near the beginning of the movie when they are filming a high octane section of the movie-within-a-movie. In the "crying scene," Speedman is supposed to cry in-character, but is thrown off by how hard Lazarus is doing so. While the movie is still rolling, Speedman asks the Director about doing another take of it, despite the fact that military jets were about two minutes away to launch a $4 Million explosion. In the end, they screw up the shot, Lazarus proposes a rewrite and uses the bathroom, and the explosion goes off anyway, scorching the tree line behind the actors.

While the movie provides a lot of good laughs, it does have its own times when the subject matter is serious, such as the "Full Retard" speech given by Kirk Lazarus to Tugg Speedman. After the "Scorcher" franchise, Speedman tried to star in more serious roles like "Simple Jack," a "movie about a mentally disabled farmhand who can talk to animals," which was a box-office flop. Lazarus tells Speedman that his character bombed because he went "Full Retard" and didn't have his character act more mildly challenged, citing Tom Hanks in "Forrest Gump" and Dustin Hoffman in "Rain Man" as examples. This moment was well played and cements how much of a parody the movie is.

The action and special effects were impressive, especially after finding out how they did the explosions for the movie. For example, they only had one shot at blowing up a bridge near the end of the movie. The action scenes could also have their own laughs, such as how Portnoy manages to take out two guards with drugs while the actors attempt to rescue a captured Speedman. The film also manages to provide interesting character twists in a use of the "girl back home" speech you commonly hear in war movies.

Tropic Thunder is a movie that is well thought out with a lot of knowledge about how Hollywood Movies tend to work, taking that and turning it into a merciless and enjoyable parody. The more you know about specific actors and movies, the better this movie gets, enhancing its own humor with what the viewer knows about real life. I found this movie to be great fun, and I believe that anyone who has seen this movie can tell you that as well. This is a comedy well worth watching, no matter how much or how little you know about Hollywood. I highly recommend it to anyone with even a passing interest.

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