Review: Tropic Thunder

Tuesday, August 12 by

First off you need to know this: I lost my shit laughing at Tropic Thunder AND my mind was blown by the action. It is not easy to blend the two genres. But Ben Stiller and crew pulled it off in a big way.

 The Plot in 13 Words

Actors unknowingly use their dramatic skills to defeat a mean Laotian heroin cartel.

The Horror, The Horror

Tropic Thunder is one running reference to Coppola’s Apocalypse Now. What I really liked about the film is that they made conscious decisions to work all those little bits and pieces of war cinema into a comedy in backwards ways.  Jack Black’s heroin addiction wasn’t because he was a soldier, it was because he was an actor that hated himself. Robert Downey Jr’s tough guy platitudes were not the utterings of a marginalized grunt that misses the Mississippi sorghum, but rather the planned asides of an Australian superstar searching for the next way to get an Oscar. Brandon T. Jackson’s version of Coppola’s swift boat riding Tyrone ‘Clean’ Miller was not that of a young recruit made nervous by war, but that of a rapper turned green actor looking to promote his sports drink through film. And Stiller’s devolution into the isolated Colonel Kurtz climaxes in a genius scene involving a bowl of water and some shadows. They were all these weird holograms of characters who arrived at who they were in a very different, very unique way.  It’s just good writing.

When I was here, I wanted to be there; when I was there, all I could think of was getting back into the jungle.

On top of good writing and acting, the movie was shot really well. It pulled you into the jungle, and made slower parts as interesting as a lot of the action sequences. There is one scene where you can see the madness in Jack Black’s eyes, lit by a campfire—it’s one of many times where you’re given a pause to take in the insanity of the characters. Just awesome. There are also plenty of scenes where the audience is showered in gore and debris. The explosions, set off by a unionized redneck demolitions director played by Danny McBride are massive, and done in a such a thoroughly entertaining over-the-top way that you cant help but gut-laugh your way though the carnage.

I love the smell of napalm in the morning

I liked Tropic Thunder more than Dark Knight. Don’t get me wrong— the latest Batman had its merits, and plenty of them.  But at the end of the day it was more of the same, and I thought that Downey Jr. in Blackface was just more entertaining than Ledger in clown-face. The film was really different. It did toe the line at times, devolving into dick-joke humor. Or in this case licking the-dangling-neck-tissue-of-a-disembodied-head-humor. But overall it’s a really smart movie filled with great action that managed to successfully execute a pretty conceptual premise.

I watched a snail crawl along the edge of a straight razor

The scene of so much controversy uses the "r" word a total of 15 times in the span of 3 minutes. What should be noted, and maybe one of the things that makes a lot of people angry, is that the conversation is really good. What they’re discussing has merit, and Downey Jr’s retorts are not only well acted, but wonderfully written.  That is the very way to sum up the movie itself:  absurd, offensive, and surprisingly good. And Tom Cruise is rad. I never thought I would write that.  8/10

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