the faux previews to the opening Vietnam War battle scene, you know
"Tropic Thunder" is yanking your chain. The movie has fun spoofing war
movie clichés and gore. The actors play their roles with straight faces,
but you know they're having a great time playing war. This is a
delightfully nasty, yet affectionate look at the Hollywood
movie making machine.
"Tropic Thunder: Director's Cut" arrives on Blu-ray and
on November 18. This is an early review of the Blu-ray.
Totally offensive and crass, the movie hits all the right notes. When I
saw the film theatrically, I felt that most of it belonged to the
performance of Robert Downey Jr. as the skin pigment dying a-c-t-o-r,
Kirk Lazarus. After walking out of the theater, I thought most of the
best parts of the movie were shown in the previews. Yet after watching
it again on Blu-ray, I grew to admire all the detailed gags and
performances within. The screenplay is filled with a lot of one-liners
that I missed before.
A huge movie production goes awry when its high priced actors are stuck
in the jungle. Playing military men, they're surprised to actually be
fighting real enemies. The concept is ripe for parodying the
machine, and "Tropic Thunder" does an admirable job.
"Iron Man" and now "Tropic Thunder" erased my doubts about Robert Downey
Jr. He's truly hilarious and self-parodying as an actor so intense that
he dyes his skin to play a black solider. He's got some of the
most hilarious and quotable lines I've heard in a long time. In
"Thunder," he's the most likable and funny character in the film. I'd
even say he's worthy of an Oscar nomination.
's on-screen demeanor during
his career hasn't always impressed me. As in my review of "Iron Man," I
always felt that he came off as smug in almost any role he's done. His
off-screen personal issues also tainted my opinion of him. It's obvious
that he's made a tremendous turnaround in both his career and life, and
he looks like he's having the time of his life playing Lazarus. The role
of Kirk Lazarus is worth watching. Downey Jr. is priceless, and even
Matthew McConaughey does a good job as Stiller's agent.
The cast is strong. Ben Stiller is either hit or miss with me. He
sometimes over does the "Ben Stiller" act and he's no exception in
"Thunder." He's the least likable character in the film, aside from the
total jerk character of Les Grossman (Tom Cruise). Credit, though, is
due to Stiller for co-writing, co-producing and directing the
production. It's done on a grand scale and looks and feels every bit as
epic as big budget war movie.
Les Grossman, taking a cue from the legend of every nasty studio
executive, is a jerk to the highest degree. Cruise pokes fun at Jeffrey
Katzenberg with the penchant for Diet Coke. Grossman is despicable and
repetitive in his threats to people around him. It's pretty much typical
Tom Cruise acting here with the eyes bulging out and spit flying. Some
critics found the role enjoyable. I found the character repulsive.
The film is offensive throughout, but I think the script is smart and
knows what it's trying to say about the occasionally absurd nature of
filmmaking and studio executives. The language is very strong
throughout, and the movie hits on every possible racist, mentally
handicapped, and sexually orientated button. I have to admit, I laughed
pretty hard at Ben Stiller's take on "Forrest Gump," "Simple Jack." The
movie takes shots at a lot of movie and actor clichés, and I think it
nails them. If there's a weakness to the movie, there is a dramatic
undertone to its execution; an almost heavy handedness. Overall it
doesn't detract from the movie.
The Blu-ray is an exemplary format for showcasing the production. John
Toll's cinematography has all the richness and color of movies like
"Apocalypse Now." The images are sharp and have exquisite detail. For a
comedy, the production has high value compared to something like a Judd
Apatow movie. It looks and sounds like a real war movie done on a big
budget. The sound design has enough booms and bangs to keep your
speakers happy. The Dolby TrueHD soundtrack is clean and full of energy
with well recorded dialogue and sound effects.
"Tropic Thunder" is occasionally flawed, but it's brilliantly funny in
so many other ways. Hollywood
has been skewered before by it own members. I'm sure that the business
will survive this playful drubbing, and even Jeffrey
Katzenberg got a couple laughs out it.
Photos: © 2008 DreamWorks/Paramount. All