Monday, August 18, 2008

Tropic Thunder (2008)

Director: Ben Stiller Not Funny

Starring: Ben Stiller Not Funny, Robert Downey Jr, Jack Black, Steve Coogan, Nick Nolte

More Info: IMDB

Tagline: The movie they think they're making... isn't a movie anymore.

Plot: Through a series of freak occurrences, a group of actors shooting a big-budget war movie are forced to become the soldiers they are portraying.

My Rating: 7.5/10

Would I watch it again? Oh, yeah. It's worth it just for Downey

I wish I could say Ben Stiller is back after having run out of funny a long time ago. I wish I could say it's a great action movie. I wish I could say it's one of the best satires on Hollywood actors in years. I really wish I could say I loved it.

Months ago, when I first saw the photo of Downey in character makeup as the black Army Sgt, Kirk Lazarus, I was in tears with laughter and disbelief. It took me a while to see the actor underneath the character. Then the trailer hit and I was completely sold despite Stiller being attached to it.

I remember watching and LOVING Stiller's 6-episode, short-lived, show, THE BEN STILLER SHOW back in it's first run in 1990. THAT was funny. It wasn't anything but a showcase for Stiller to goof on celebrities like Tom Cruise and Oliver Stone in some really funny skits. After that he seemed to play the same type of character - an earnest man clueless to his stupidity. It got old and fast. When he showed up in a cameo in the otherwise funny ANCHORMAN (2004) I'd had enough. I really had high hopes that this could be a turning point since he also directed it and co-wrote a story that had so much ripe material to draw on. Unfortunately, he only made it halfway back.

I liked the film but I was disappointed at the same time. Downey is absolutely amazing and hysterical. His speech to Stiller about how Stiller made a mistake in going "full retard" in a film as opposed to "half retard" like Hanks (Forrest Gump) and Hoffman (Rainman) is priceless. He's the only main character that wasn't wasted. Sure, they could have had more Downey and I would have loved it but what was there seemed fine. Stiller did do a good job with giving everyone a few moments to shine, just not enough.

The film opens with trailers and commercials for each of the four leads. Downey's was the best by far. The rest were lackluster which is too bad. After they were done I was stunned that that was the best they could come up with. Jack Black can be funny and he pulls off some funny gags but a lot of them fell flat. Missed opportunity there. Brandon T. Jackson, as rapper-turned-actor Alpa Chino, had some good bits but not enough. And Stiller just did the same thing he always does, has his bits of childishness fused with stupid, blind, phony courage. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't.

Apocalypse SPOILERS:

Tom Cruise makes a disguised elongated cameo as a ruthless studio exec. I normally loathe Cruise but he had some hilarious moments but not all of his bits got laughs like it seemed like they were going for. His big-ass dance scene at the beginning of the end credits was just not funny. It looked like it was supposed to be but it wasn't and it went on WAY TOO LONG. It seemed like they had this huge star goofing around so let's stroke his ego and let him go at it.

Matthew McConaughey, who I don't normally care for, is pretty damn funny as Stiller's "I'll do ANYTHING for you" agent.


Fortunately the movie feels pretty short at 107 minutes and it's beautifully shot in Hawaii. I'm certainly glad I saw it. Downey had me howling just about every time he opened his mouth but the rest of the film felt like a string of "that's the best you could do?" missed opportunities. He should've gone half-retard.