Projections - Movie Reviews
With Jim Sabatini

Tropic Thunder

Tropic Thunder
Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Robert Downey, Jr., Jay Baruschel, Nick Nolte,
Danny McBride, Brandon T. Jackson, Matthew McConaughey and Tom Cruise

Rated: R 
Reviewed by: Jim  
Release date: August 15, 2008 Released by: DreamWorks Animation

Ben Stiller had fun with the fashion industry in his Zoolander. The multi-tasker is without buddy Owen Wilson on the raucous satirical action comedy in Tropic Thunder.

Co-starring Jack Black (Kung Fu Panda) and Robert Downey, Jr. (Iron Man), there seems to be zestfulness into the film industry and its criticism, even if Stiller's direction is hardly inspired. It turns gleefully outrageous on the ultimate war epic turning real with drug-dealing guerrilas.

The trio play suffering, yet narcissistic actors with star Stiller (in brawny Rambo form) as director and co-writer having his way with notions of heroism. There are plenty of grossouts, sight gags, and crudeness to really pep it up in a performance-enhancing way.

Faux trailers and a concession promo introduce the likes of Stiller's Tugg Speedman, once an action star who made an Oscar bid through his challenged farmhand, Simple Jack. Black's cocaine-fueled Jeff Portnoy claim to fame was his flatulent streak in crass movies. Downey's Kirk Lazarus is an immortalized Australian "method" actor (with five Oscars) so into his black role that he has darkened the pigment on his skin with matted hair and ghetto-husky voice.

Into the jungles of Southeast Asia, the movie's frenetic debuting British director (Steve Coogan of the upcoming Hamlet 2) helicopters them along with newcomer Kevin Sandusky (Jay Baruschel), a mean, shellshocked technical adviser (Nick Nolte), and a rabid explosives man (Danny McBride of Pineapple Express). Even though the over-budgeted picture caused the studio to supposedly scrap the feature film. Also, there is the part of "Alpa Chino" with his "Bust-A-Nut" candy and "Booty Sweat" energy beverage as played by comedian-actor Brandon T. Jackson. Safe to say the cast and crew become missing in action as the helmer puts his foot on an old land mine.

Stiller widens the canvas for plenty of mayhem and stunts, along with plenty of jokes that work more often than not, probably because of the picture's hard-boiled quality. The actors find themselves at the mercy of the Flaming Rebels, led by Brandon Soo Hoo's dimuntive, yet wickedly cigar-smoking 12-year-old Han, in a nice piece of casting.

Downey essays quite a comedic insight into someone gifted with an identity crisis that works with droll blitheness as Kirk and Tugg are unaware of what awaits them in the jungle. It seems that Stiller has one more performance for his actor to let Simple Jack "go full retard" as Lazarus never thinks that Oscar-winners ever have.

If Stiller and his game posse sometimes fire blanks in their posing and expressions, Tropic Thunder still is watchable throughout under the lush cinematography of John Toll. While the director fares better as a scripter to capture everything associated with Hollywood right down to war movie perceptions, Black and him aren't nearly as good as Downey who really revs it up when on screen. Matthew McConaughey also scores as Tugg's slick agent, and a richly camoflaged Tom Cruise has much fun as a wicked media mogul. The ensemble of self-absorbed, pampered types figures into a wild, wrangled escapade lost in an impossible, real-life mission.

  Frank Chris Jim Nina Sam Howard Jennifer Kathleen  Avg. 
Tropic Thunder     B   B-      B+      B-   B-   B 

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