Never Go Full-Retard: A Review of Tropic Thunder
By Aaron J. Shay
My history with Ben Stiller is as follows:
- Being exposed repeatedly to â€œKeeping the Faithâ€ at Jewish Sunday school when they didnâ€™t have anything for us to learn.Â Decent movie, at least for the first three times.
- Being forced to watch â€œMeet the Parentsâ€ as a replacement for a final in high school Advanced Placement English, where I would periodically have to excuse myself to hit my head against the wall to get rid of the pain.Â True story, ask Mr. Balla of Bellevue Senior High School.Â He probably heard the thuds in the hall.
- Being completely underwhelmed by â€œZoolander.â€
Needless to say, when I got the opportunity to see â€œTropic Thunder,â€ I was prepared to be tortured.Â Jack Black has done nothing but fail to live up to his potential whenever I saw a movie of his, and Robert Downey Juniorâ€¦ in black-face.Â There were so many things that could go wrong with this movieâ€¦ Especially considering the fact that Ben Stiller directed it and had a hand in writing it.
Luckily, I laughed the whole way through and enjoyed this movie.Â There may come a time when Iâ€™ll write a bad review, guys.Â Today is not that day.
The summary: Famous action star Tugg Speedman (Stiller), classically trained actor Kirk Lazarus (Downey), hip-hop star Alpa Chino (Brandon T. Jackson), hopped-up comedian Jeff Portnoy (Black) and newcomer Kevin Sandusky (Jay Baruchel) are set to star in the best Vietnam war movie of all time, based on the book written by a handless veteran.Â The director gets pissed that none of them take it seriously enough, so he takes the advice of the veteran (who is on the set for one reason or another) and sends them into the jungle to learn a thing or two about real heroism and war.Â During this controlled experiment, things go wrong in a wacky, unpredictable way and eventually Speedman is kidnapped by a gang of Myanmar criminals.Â Or were they Cambodian?Â Maybe Vietnamese?Â The real question is, though, is this: Whoâ€™s going to save him?Â His agent?Â His director?Â The producer?Â The actors?Â What will become of Tugg Speedman?
The pacing in this film is superb.Â Itâ€™s short, as any light comedy should be.Â The conflicts become more intense at proper intervals.Â The dialogue is just funny, and the story is great to watch unfold.Â There are great celebrity cameos (my favorite being Tobey Maguire), and the character revelations, while not revolutionary or shocking, are entertaining.
A curious credit: Etan Cohen as a writer.Â Does Eton = Ethan?Â As in one of the infamous Coen Brothers?Â We may never know.
What we do know is that there are clear signs of Stillerâ€™s involvement in the script, such as the classic gag â€œreally white businessmen dancing to hip-hop in an awkward manner.â€Â How quickly does this get old?Â Letâ€™s just say is this way: Even Steve Martin couldnâ€™t make it funny.Â Been there, done that.Â Sorry, Stiller.Â No dice.
Iâ€™m going to make a controversial statement rightâ€¦ now.Â I think the pacing in this film was better than that of â€œThe Dark Knight,â€ which has been the cinematic darling of at least 80% of my friends since its opening.Â Letâ€™s face it, folks, the newest installment in the Batman franchise had at least three major climaxes.Â Three.Â Thatâ€™s exhausting for the audience.Â False endings piss us off because itâ€™s condescending.Â Itâ€™s dangling a carrot on a string.Â Itâ€™s cruel.Â I couldnâ€™t tell you which parts to erase, because theyâ€™re all so good, but there was too much.
â€œTropic Thunderâ€ is not cruel by any stretch of the imagination, save for a few moments of awkward unfunny jokes.Â The exposition is quick and efficient, done as a series of film previews.Â Perfect.Â It tells all the audience really needs to know about the identity of the characters.Â The film brings up the question of the worth of a human being and how to determine it, which is still a big, topical debate.Â The black-face was used, not only as a comic device, but also as a vehicle for a cultural statement, which relaxed my worst fear for the film.Â Actors in the audience will enjoy the â€œMethodâ€ jokes throughout.
Downeyâ€™s blend of Mel Gibson and Colin Farrel was a great prod at â€œseriousâ€ actors.Â Jacksonâ€™s ridiculous hip-hop stereotype was balanced wonderfully by his role as a foil for Downeyâ€™s black-face.Â Jack Black pulls one of his best roles Iâ€™ve seen him perform, playing a combined satire of Chris Farley and Eddie Murphy.Â Baruchel executes a great straightman, a seemingly recurring role for him.Â And of course, Stiller does what he does best: Play a humorously self-centric idiot.
Classic war-movie cinematography, questionable sound-mixing, great characters and a wonderful ending give this movie a rating of â€œgood.â€Â Not â€œgreat,â€ but just might be worth the money to see with a group of friends.