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Tropic Thunder

By Willie Krischke — August 29, 2008.  

Ahh, finally….a summer comedy that is actually funny. Really, really funny. For more than a few moments at a time.

After a series of so-bad-they’re-bad flicks (Love Guru, Zohan, Step Brothers) and a minor disappointment (Pineapple Express), “Tropic Thunder” delivers the goods. It is hilarious. It’s stupid-funny, and not just in bits, but all throughout. It is manic and smart and did I say funny? This is the kind of comedy you know you will see more than once. Without knowing what the lines are yet, you know you will be quoting lines from it.

You’re going to hear that it’s offensive, that you should boycott this one, because of material about the mentally disabled, or about African Americans, or pandas, or Asian movie taste. Well, I don’t fall into any of the demogaphics that might be offended, so I can’t really say for sure, whether it’s offensive or not. But I don’t understand the protests. What I saw was a Hollywood satire; that is, a movie that at every second and in every possible way, makes fun of the way things are presented in movies. Things like mental disability and “the plight of the African American man.”  And pandas. For instance, it makes fun of actors who play mentally or developmentally disabled characters in naked grabs for awards, and the industry that responds in kind. That’s a long ways away from making fun of the mentally disabled. In fact, the point it makes is so sharp, after watching it, you might want to boycott “Rain Man.”


But really, I don’t want to talk about who might be offended by this movie, and why. I want to talk about how funny it is. I mean, funny. I’m trying to remember the last time I laughed this hard, and relished the jokes this much. I think it was “The Big Lebowski.” That was, what, ten years ago? I’ve seen a lot of funny movies since then. None as funny as this. The first ten minutes are funnier than anything else this summer, as “Tropic Thunder” opens with fake trailers, introducing all of our major characters. There’s

-Jack Black, who seems to be a white Eddie Murphy, coming off a series of movies starring himself, and himself, and himself, all in fat suits and farting a lot.

-Ben Stiller, a sort of Stallone, coming off his own series of movies, in which the earth melts, and then freezes, and then melts again… or something like that.

-Robert Downey Jr., the consummate method actor, the kind who uses Oscars as door stops and “never breaks character until the DVD commentary is done.”

These guys get together to make “the war movie to end all war movies,” and, well, pretty much do. End all war movies, that is. After everything that goes wrong on this set, it’s hard to imagine anyone daring to make a war movie again. Director Steve Coogan can’t manage his actors, or, more accurately, can’t manage his actor’s agents, personal assistants, and caterers, and after he gets certain parts of his anatomy handed to him on a platter by his producer decides to go au natural and make “Blair Witch goes to War.” I’m not going to tell you who plays the producer. Probably you’ve heard already. But I hadn’t, and when it dawned on me, fully halfway through the movie, it was such a sublime comedic moment, I’d hate to be the one who snatches it away from you. It’d be like telling you how “The Sixth Sense” ends.

Black, Stiller, and Downey Jr, all give pretty much one-note performances, but they manage to add up to a comedic symphony. These guys are playing to the rafters, and it’s a joy to watch. But in the end, the movie belongs to the straight men – Jay Baruchel and Brandon T. Jackson (in a role that all the rapper-wannabe-actors like Ludacris and Xzibit should’ve fought for, but apparently didn’t.) It’d be nice if Dreamworks would honor the old straight man/funny man 60/40 split that Laurel & Hardy and Abbott & Costello followed–- straight man gets 60, because funny men are a dime a dozen, but a good straight man’s hard to find. But they won’t. This is Downey Jr., Black, and Stiller we’re talking about, after all. And they may be willing (and able) to make a movie that fiercely satirizes the Hollywood system, but in the end, they’re stilling going to take home their usual checks.

This review is getting long, and there are so many things I haven’t even mentioned yet. The difficulty of writing about comedies is that jokes are much funnier than descriptions of jokes. Go see it. And then write me and tell me about your favorite parts. And in ten years, we’ll have a “Tropic Thunder” party, and ten bucks says it’s just as funny then as it is now. Or funnier.


  • to anyone who really needs a solid laugh.
  • to those few and brave who’ve lived through the rest of this summer’s comedies.
  • to fans of sharp, perceptive, totally over-the-top satire.
  • to anyone sick of Hollywood pretension and ready to see a few sacred cows barbecued.

Not Recommended

  • to anyone who thinks they may be offended by it. You probably will.
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2 Responses

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  1. fwdlib said

    I love your blog, Willie! I look forward to reading your full-on reviews, and still appreciate the recommended/not recommended part.

  2. now I HAVE to see it 🙂

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