Foul-Mouthed Hollywood Spoof
Release Date: August 13, 2008
Audience: Older teenagers and adults
Runtime: 107 minutes
Distributor: DreamWorks/Paramount Pictures/Viacom
Director: Ben Stiller
Executive Producer: Justin Theroux
Address Comments To:Sumner Redstone, Chairman/CEO
Brad Grey, Chairman/CEO
5555 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90038-3197
Phone: (323) 956-5000
The comedy stars Ben Stiller, Robert Downey, Jr., Jack Black, and newcomer Brandon T. Jackson as four pampered actors making a war movie in Vietnam’s jungles. Stiller plays action star Tugg Speedman, whose stint as a mentally impaired farm boy who talks to animals was a bomb. He needs a hit. Downey plays Australian actor Kirk Lazarus, an Oscar®-winning method actor who’s so committed to his role as a black soldier that he has medically changed his skin pigmentation and never breaks character. Black plays Jeff Portnoy, a drug-addicted comedy star whose specialty has only been fart jokes. Finally, Jackson plays black rapper Alpa Chino who’s doing his first acting gig and resents Kirk’s pretense to be black.
After the wacko studio head (played by a hilarious but foul-mouthed Tom Cruise in heavy makeup) threatens to shut down production, the war movie’s director decides to do the rest of the movie “guerrilla style,” deep in the jungle, away from the large crew assembled in Vietnam, and away from the actor’s cell phones. He takes the four men, plus another actor (played well by Jay Baruchel), out into the wild.
A real land mine left over from the Vietnam War blows up the director, however. Tugg Speedman finds the director’s head and thinks it’s a fake prop. Then, a group of drug lords, led by a vicious 12-year-old Asian kid, mistakes the actors for American narcotics soldiers. They capture Tugg, but the other three actors decide to rescue him.
TROPIC THUNDER works best, and most humorously, as a send-up of Hollywood and the narcissistic acting profession. Downey is especially good as the serious actor who never breaks his character as the angry black man. And, Cruise is so good as the vicious studio mogul that it’s scary. His crazy performance shows the dangers of working for one of Hollywood’s sometimes maniacal moguls. In fact, the movie’s satire of Hollywood is pretty effective.
Surprisingly, however, Jack Black is the weakest link in the chain. His turn as the drug-addicted comedy star is a one-note joke that plays like something from a minor comedy skit on SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE. And, some of the other comedy is stupidly over the top and/or hit-and-miss.
Beyond that, TROPIC THUNDER is chock full of strong foul language. There is also a smattering of crude sexual references and extremely gory jokes about war violence, including an example of unintentional cannibalism (Stiller’s character in one scene thinks the director’s decapitated head is just a prop, so he starts licking its wounds to calm the fears of his fellow actors). There is no explicit sexual nudity, however.
TROPIC THUNDER grossly violates objective, Bible-based moral standards. Children, teenagers and moral moviegoers should avoid subjecting themselves to it.
Some of the characterizations in TROPIC THUNDER are funny and clever. The two best ones are Robert Downey, Jr.’s method actor and a hilarious cameo by Tom Cruise as a mean studio mogul. Jack Black, however, is surprisingly bad. Also, some of the other comedy is stupid. Rated R, the movie has more than 200 obscenities and profanities, a couple extremely gory war scenes, and some crude sexual language.