Comments on watching and making films.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Tropic Thunder

Ahh... The beauty of controversy... Especially when the people who are kicking it all up have either not seen the thing their complaining about, or completely missed the point. Tropic Thunder is Ben Stiller's first time back in the directing chair since Zoolander, a film that made fun of the idiocy of the modelling business, and male models, in particular. This time around, Stiller is taking on the idiocy of his own breed - actors and directors. With a well-rounded out cast of talent, including once, and now current, golden boy Robert Downey Jr., Steve Coogan, Danny McBride, Jack Black, and Tom Cruise (in a surprisingly hilarious role), Stiller is out to win your heart for this movie with a lot of R-rated laughs.

The film centers around the production of a war movie, also titled Tropic Thunder, which is being led by an ego-maniacal director, Damien Cockburn (played by Steve Coogan). Cockburn has wrangled up several of Hollywood's leading actor's, including action star Tugg Speedman (Stiller), comedian Jeff Portnoy (Black), and Kirk Lazarus (Downey Jr.), an Australian multi-award winner. After only a week of filming, the production is hopelessly off schedule and over budget, and the actors aren't cooperating with Cockburn's direction. Fearing his eminent dismissal by the head honcho's in charge, Cockburn decides to gather up his leads, along with explosives expert Cody (played perfectly by Danny McBride), and the author of the source novel, Four Leaf Tayback (played by a very grungy Nick Nolte), and head out into the jungle to shoot the film guerilla style, in hopes that this will inspire his actors to deliver the performances he's looking for. Needless to say, things go awry from the moment they touch down, and soon enough, the whole Tropic Thunder crew is living out the movie there supposed to be making.

This film was hilarious! That's it. That's all I can say. One of the funniest things I've seen all year. And, it's sort of like The Dark Knight of comedy's - you feel like you could watch it over and over, and it would never stop being funny. Everybody's performances were great, and Stiller did an amazing job for being co-writer, director, AND actor. I can't imagine what that process must have been like.

The controversy, though, centers around the inclusion of a movie that Tugg Speedman did, as a chance to get an award, called Simple Jack. That "film" was about a mentally challenged individual. Several mental disability advocate groups have taken to saying that the film makes fun of the mentally disabled. I got news for you - It doesn't. If they had SEEN the movie, they would know that. Simple Jack isn't about showing mentally disabled people as stupid or people to be made fun of. It's purpose is to show the idiocy of actors who try desperately to attach themselves to projects like that, because they think it will get them awards. Tugg Speedman is an action star. He doesn't get any real respect, so he goes out and makes a movie like Simple Jack thinking that everyone will love it, and be challenged by it, and they'll heap awards on him. Instead, people laugh at him, and scorn him (until he finds some people who DID like the film, but I won't ruin that for you). It's the same concept that he's using for Downey Jr.'s character Kirk Lazarus. Lazarus lobbies to play the part of the platoon's black leader. There's only one problem, though - he's white. So he goes through an operation to have his pigment darkened so he can play the role. AND THEY HIRE HIM! Why would anybody, in their right minds, hire a white, Australian guy to play the part of a black, southern platoon leader? But that's the point! It's to show the ridiculousness of some of the decisions that Hollywood makes sometimes. And if you watch the movie, and you don't get that fact... Honestly, I'd feel a little sorry for you...

Tropic Thunder is great. It's almost constant laugh's, a great satire of one of the largest entertainment industries in the world, and its done with great skill and loving care. Don't believe the negative hype about this film - go see it.

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