Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Tropic Thunder review
The actors have different reasons for wanting to do the film though it becomes obvious that none of them have read the script. Speedman is an action star looking to revive his career. Portnoy wants to do something other than fart films. Chino wants to get out of the rap business. And Lazarus is an award winning actor who thinks it would be fun to be black though he doesn't seem to understand how that might offend some people. Tyrannical producer Les Grossman (an unrecognizable Tom Cruise) has spent so much money that he's hired wet behind the ears Brit Damien Cockburn (Steve Coogan) to direct this three ring circus. Of course they've only been on location for two days and they're already two months behind schedule. Even at a distance, Cockburn is terrified of what Grossman might do to him if the film tanks.
So Cockburn decides to take his actors to the middle of the jungle and decides to leave them to fend for themselves and shoot them documentary style. Unfortunately Cockburn steps on a landmine and blows his head off. These are actors. They don't know how to get out of the jungle. Portnoy immediately starts whining about going back to the hotel. He has a cocaine problem. Eventually they stumble upon a drug processing operation. So it becomes somewhat of a standard action film with a lot of gags. One running gag is about a film Speedman made called Simple Jack. He played a mentally challenged person to pander to Oscar voters and failed miserably. But the drug processors liked Simple Jack and make Speedman a god...sort of. There's also a subplot with Speedman's agent (Matthew McConaghey) fighting with Grossman for Speedman's perks. He winds up personally delivering a Tivo to the Vietnam jungle. So Tropic Thunder is a mix of gags and blowing up stuff.
Tropic Thunder is broad enough that I think most will get the jokes. Ben Stiller came up with the story with Justin Theroux and they wrote the screenplay with veteran comedy writer Etan Cohen. This was Theroux's first screenplay. He's done a lot of acting on TV and did appear in Stiller's film Zoolander. Stiller has admitted that he probably wasn't right for his role but he got away with it. And Downey's blackface routine may be offensive to some but it's really designed to lampoon the pretentious behaviour of some actors. It's a funny performance especially when the rapper reminds him that he's white. Brandon Jackson is a stand up comic from Detroit. Tropic Thunder is very funny and recommended but the producers have also produced a making of documentary called Rain Of Madness compete with a caricature of German director Werner Herzog played by Justin Theroux. Here's the trailer for Rain Of Madness but you can also download the full half hour film for free at iTunes. And there's even a website for the mockumentary.