Tropic Thunder (2008)

Action, Comedy
Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Robert Downey Jr., Jeff Kahn
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.
With biting satire, plenty of subversive humor, and an unforgettable turn by Robert Downey, Jr., Tropic Thunder is a triumphant late Summer comedy.
  • DreamWorks/Paramount Studios Company:
  • R Rated:
  • IMDB link IMDB:
  • 13 Aug 2008 Released:
  • 18 Nov 2008 DVD Release:
  • $110.4M Box office:

All subtitles:

Trailer:

Sharp Satire7/10
'Tropic Thunder' is the sharpest, nastiest, and most honest parody of Hollywood since Altman's 'The Player'.

If Doweny Jr. in black face, the script's use of "retard", or the politically incorrect humor offends you, you're missing the point.

Only Russel Crowe, Robin Williams, and Harvey Weinstein should take offense. The parodies of their personalities, their films, and their business tactics are downright cruel. (But, so, so true, and so brilliant.) I must credit every actor -- particularly Downey Jr. and Cruise -- for their performances, and for making their characters more than stereotypes for cheap laughs.

The more you know about Hollywood, the more you will appreciate the film. If not, just go and laugh at the genre. It takes balls to leave in a scene discussing how Blue-Ray conquered HD-DVD (and expect anyone to fine it funny). But it is funny.

To utterly relish the insanity, brush up on 'Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse'.

They got it so right. So, so, so right.
Welcome to the goodie room…Tropic Thunder8/10
Despite my somewhat indifference, bordering on dislike, of Ben Stiller and most of what he does, Tropic Thunder has been on my much-anticipated list for some time now. The audacity of what he was attempting, spoofing the industry that was giving him the money to do so, blatantly and lovingly, was too great to ignore. And then there is the cast of stars with cameo after cameo of surprise faces joining in on the fun, not to mention the intense marketing strategy pushing it along. Websites for each fictional actor, a site with clips from the Rain of Madness making of documentary (a Heart of Darkness send up "directed" by co-writer Justin Theroux), and even a faux E! True Hollywood Story to air the week before its premiere in theatres just add to the mythology and attention to detail that went into its making. Now, having finally seen the end result, I must say it didn't let me down. True, I was expecting more in the way of story and plot, especially with all that background info manufactured, but when you get down to it, the entertainment value is off the charts, the one-liners are going to be quoted for years to come, and the laughs come often and hard.

To take on subject matter as lofty as a send-up to war films, mainly Apocalypse Now, needs a certain amount to bravery and confidence to not care if it all backfires. The production value and effects make this seem as though it is a certified blockbuster falling apart at the seams. Sure the characters are funny and the events on display hilarious, but by the look and feel of the aesthetic, this is a war film to the end. Between that realism and the love I have for meta-narrative, there was little chance Stiller would be bombing in my eyes. Something about movies within movies intrigue the heck out of me, and this one having actors within actors just played up my interest more. There was truly no better way to start this movie then how was done: the playing of Alpa Chino's rap music, consumerism selling commercial and trailers for our three leads' previous films. What better way to be introduced to our action star, our funnyman, and our award winning thespian? Knowing full well the extent of satire going on, each spot delivers, giving a little background into the work these men have done in the past.

Directly connecting with the subsequent shot, a live scene from the film at hand, the egos finally come out and show face. Jack Black's Jeff Portney reins in his comedian schtick to portray a hardened solider, voice rasping as he shows his serious side; Stiller's Tugg Speedman attempts to revive the action cred he tried to leave behind with his Oscar-bait turn as a mentally handicapped man in Simple Jack, where he went "full retarded, no one ever comes back from that"; and Robert Downey Jr.'s Kirk Lazarus, Australian genius at his craft, playing a black man like he was born one. The scene continues without a hitch, explosions everywhere, screams heard in the distance, and a heartfelt death about to be delivered, until the men show their true colors. Tugg can't make himself cry, (he's just not that good), and Kirk's blubbering and drooling is just so real that the two must partake in a pissing match while effects guru Cody, (the red hot of late Danny McBride), let's loose the one-take only scorched earth fire storm. It's all falling apart and script-writer/former soldier Four Leaf, (the always gruff Nick Nolte), gets the director, (Steve Coogan with one of the best film exits I've ever seen), to agree on guerilla filming, deep in the jungle of foreign lands. Here is where the fun begins and where the movie inside the movie becomes real, or, in effect, the actual movie—kind of like "the dude playing the dude, disguised as another dude". The levels at play here are just too many to mention.

Besides a weakly written role for Black, the rest of the men are given enough to work with for some truly great moments. Stiller has a few instances where he returns to his over-long annoying routine—pouring "fake" blood into his mouth for one—but for the most part did a real good job, especially with his tough guy poses shooting off his gun. Jay Baruchel shines as the only non-celebrity involved, the guy who went to boot camp, read the novel and the script, and idolizes the men he is working with. Good to see him get a more beefed up role as opposed to the side parts in Apatow films. And the back and forth between Downey Jr. and Brandon T. Jackson's Alpa never get old. The whole dynamic of real black man versus fake was unceasingly funny.

There were plot points that irked me throughout, TiVo's cameo being the biggest culprit, but I found myself pushing the problems aside and just enjoying the ride. Downey Jr.'s facial expressions, voices, and presence may steal the show, but what really allowed me to forget my worries was an absolutely brilliant cameo from Tom Cruise. His studio executive, pompously crass, loud-mouth made me think of all the horror stories you hear about the Weinsteins, and his dance moves can not be equaled. Tropic Thunder is first and foremost a vehicle for a bunch of friends to have a blast poking fun at their craft and really at themselves. I'll be remembering quotes all night now, thinking that while the story itself doesn't necessitate me watching it again soon, the jokes just might make buying it a must…not to mention the wealth of extras that DVD is sure to have.
Best comedy in years.9/10
I just got out of a midnight showing and I was absolutely blown away. I fully expect this to be a mediocre movie at best, but it surprised me in all aspects. It was well directed, acted, the action scenes were actually very well done and pretty epic, and most of all it was hilarious. I doubt I stopped laughing for more than a minute or two. I don't want to give anything away so I will keep it brief, but do yourself a favor and see this in theaters with friends.

PS. As a black man, I did not find Robert Downey Jr.'s character offensive at all. He was probably the most hilarious character in the movie.
Ben Stiller and company hit the comedic mark with "TROPIC THUNDER."8/10
Advanced screening: Toronto (July 31, 2008) Tropic Thunder is a film I've anticipated (from it's trailers/ Downey Jr's "Blackface" controversy) for quite awhile, but knowing Ben Stiller's hit (Reality Bites) or miss (Zoolander) directing filmography, I kept my expectations relatively lukewarm. Luckily that wasn't necessary because it's Stiller's best effort as a director to date as well as one of the best comedies of the year.

Starting with the best fake-trailers this side of Grindhouse, TROPIC THUNDER develops into the most uniquely wacky blend of satire/action/ and gross-out I've ever seen. At first it appears to be a straight-up spoof on popular war films, then it becomes a film within a film, then an attack on Hollywood and the film industry in general. Also present are some rather shocking (and hilarious) sight gags (exploding film-crew members, the brutal slaughter of an endangered species) that managed to catch everyone off guard (yet not offend them).

The main reason TROPIC THUNDER works so well though is it's stellar ensemble cast. You have the likes of Ben Stiller, Robert Downey Jr, Jack Black, Jay Baruchel, Steve Coogan, and Nick Nolte all turning in terrific comedic performances that they obviously had fun with. Tom Cruise gives the extended cameo of the year as a studio executive, while Tobey Maguire and a slew of other actors make notable appearances. Ultimately it is Downey Jr. who steals almost every scene as the platoon's very white, African-American squad leader.

Rude, witty, and ballsy, TROPIC THUNDER is a great time at the movies. It's hard finding worth-while large budget comedies these days, but DIRECTOR Ben Stiller, supported by a strong cast and a great premise, has proved himself to be the right man for the task. 8/10
"He Who Must Not Be Named" brings down the house, steals what is probably the smartest, dumbest, and arguably the best comedy of 20088/10
Very rarely do comedies hit the mark in terms of both smart humor and dumb humor in the same movie, let alone the same scene. That's what we've got with Tropic Thunder, a comedy that excels in both satirical jokes and laugh out loud stupidity. If you're game for any of that, in addition to quite possibly the funniest and most shocking cameos of all time, then Tropic Thunder is the perfect movie to close the summer of 2008 with.

Ben Stiller has always been the poster boy for trying to mix these two severely different types of humor recently, and has failed in his other two main directing attempts (although Zoolander was funny). Here, he more than succeeds in making Hollywood the laughingstock of the summer, and who better than Stiller to do so, someone who has been around the business his entire life.

Obviously, what's going to get the most laughs is our cast, which is one of the best comedy casts assembled, in my opinion. Our supporting performers are just as strong, if not stronger than our big three leads (definitely stronger than Jack Black), and we are treated to some of the funniest cameos of all time...One of Tropic Thunder's cameos, one of the most famous and serious actors in the world, nearly steals the movie, and is funnier than the last time he did a role like this (Austin Powers 3). If you don't know who I'm talking about by now, just wait until you see him. He'll have you on the floor laughing by the end of the movie. Other cameos (including a Judd Apatow boy and a former People's Sexiest Man Alive) are entertaining, but they have nothing on the big guy.

Now, to the actual cast...Starting with Stiller himself. Stiller has always been great at playing over the top asses, and that's what his character here is. There's plenty of exaggeration, plenty of laughs, but I felt there could have been more arrogance and more development in his character. The film belongs to Robert Downey Jr. (why am I not shocked by this?), who could sneak a Golden Globe nomination in if he's lucky for his performance as super-serious star Kurt Lazarus. Downey is absolutely hilarious, yet believable as this actor who believes acting is larger than life, and provides for the best satire of all. Jack Black is, if anything, forgettable and provided few laughs (though he does deliver one of the funniest lines of the movie). Jay Baruchel and Brandon Jackson are great in their supporting roles, and were the most well rounded characters (especially Baruchel). Danny McBride (three out of the last four movies I've watched have had this guy in it) of Pineapple Express is just as great here in another hilarious role tailor made for him. Nick Nolte is an odd presence, but an asset nonetheless. Steve Coogan's short role is memorable.

Stiller's main point in the film was obviously to make fun of Hollywood and his fellow actors as well, and he succeeds enormously. The fact that mentally challenged rights groups are calling for boycotts only proves Stiller's point: we all need to chill out, and stop taking things so seriously (where's The Joker when you need him?). The "bad" scene where the characters say 'retard' a few times is actually one of the best satire scenes in the movie. The scene isn't making fun of mentally challenged people, rather the actors that have won Oscars for playing them. Dustin Hoffman and Peter Sellers are not spared.

Like Pineapple Express before it, Tropic Thunder suffers from a less than stellar second act, which is used to attempt to ground the film in reality. This is unnecessary. We know that this could never happen. Insurance policies wouldn't even let a director think about doing what Coogan's character does in this film. However, the film starts and finishes very well (in fact, it starts better than any comedy of the year). It finishes with roars of laughter, and even though it is just absurd, it doesn't matter, because we've had a great time along the ride. Yes, Tropic Thunder is vulgar, but nowhere near the other Apatow brand products out these days. There's some blood and graphic violence, but nothing too bad.