MOVIE: Tropic Thunder (2008)

tropicthunderI actually saw this movie about two weeks ago, but I’ve been struggling with what I should say about it in a public forum.  Because here’s the problem with this movie:  it is soooooo very wrong.  SO VERY WRONG.  In sooooo many ways.  SO MANY WAYS.

And yet, oh my holy heckfire, was I ever dyin’ all the way through it, laughin’ so hard.  I actually started to get kind of hoarse by the end of the movie because I had been letting loose with so many throaty guffaws the entire way through.   Now that’s laughing, people!  Laughed so hard I done nearly broke my vocal cords!

In case you haven’t heard, this movie is about a group of actors hired to make a Vietnam war flick.  Out in the jungle somewhere (Laos?  Vietnam?  I can’t remember if/where they said they were), the actors are doing an absolutely abysmal job of it.  Only five days into production, they’re already “a month behind schedule” (heh), and everybody is getting frustrated, from the key grip to the studio head, a balding guy with major anger management issues played (in what has to be one of the most brilliant PR moves of all time) by Mr. Tom Cruise.

Yes, you read that right.  And damned if he wasn’t just awesome in this too.

The inspiration for the movie-within-the-movie is a memoir written by a Vietnam vet named Four Leaf (Nolte) who has accompanied the film team on location.  Annoyed with the pussyfooting around, Four Leaf convinces the director that if he wants his actors to get the job done right, he ought to fly them into the middle of nowhere in the jungle and leave them there for a few days, so they can see first-hand what surviving in that place is like.  The director agrees.  And things go rapidly downhill from there.

So very, very downhill.

The cast consists of Jack Black as a bleached-blond junkie primarily known for a series of comedies about flatulence, Ben Stiller as a rapidly-washing-up action movie hero, Robert Downey Jr. as a white actor playing an African American character (totally something I think ONLY RDJ could’ve pulled off successfully, god bless ‘im), Brandon T. Jackson as an actual African American playing an African American (his banter with RDJ is ridiculously funny), and Jay Baruchel as the rookie who also happens to be the only one of the group who showed up for the “boot camp” training before filming started.  In other words, the only one in the group who can read a map.

What happens after the gang is dropped into the trees is just weird and silly and ridiculous and hilarious.  But I still hesitate to express just how much I liked this movie just because it’s also sooooo irreverent in regards to soooooo many things that it almost makes me feel like I must be a horrible person for laughing so hard at it.  I am comforted if I think of it solely as a spoof of war movies.  But I’m pretty sure I’m still going to hell for recommending this movie.  Meh, life — it is such.

Recommended!  And make sure to watch the “previews” at the beginning of the movie — the sad thing is I would TOTALLY rent Scorcher VI.

[Netflix me | Buy me]

Genre: Comedy, War
Cast:  Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Robert Downey Jr., Nick Nolte, Tom Cruise, Brandon T. Jackson, Jay Baruchel, Matthew McConaughey

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6 Responses to “MOVIE: Tropic Thunder (2008)”

  1. Lizzie Says:

    I can’t read this review yet, because I actually HAVE “Tropic Thunder,” courtesy of Netflix, just waiting to be put into the DVD player. But I have to wait for my husband on this one!

  2. Marni Says:

    Agreed. That part with the head of the director. Ew. And yes, so many things wrong with it. But it was fun to watch and the kind of movie that only gets better with quotable lines via subsequent viewings. We’re already saying “You wouldn’t say Chineses.” Now, if only I could make myself sit down and finish The Dark Knight. I WILL! I WILL!!

  3. Lizzie Says:

    Okay, we saw this movie last night, and, Meg, I don’t think you have any reason to worry about having laughed at, or recommending this movie! It was SO over-the-top, and “wrong” in SO many ways that it ended up being hilarious! I think all the “un P.C.” elements canceled each other out – because there were so many of them that they ceased to have any power to offend!

    I wanted to see this movie to see RDJ being an African-American action hero – and he didn’t disappoint! I don’t know which part of his work was funniest – his portrayal of the “Black” hero, his refusal to drop character, which leads to that crazy dialog with the “real” Black actor, or when he finally becomes “himself” .. and speaks as an Australian!

    Of course, Ben Stiller and Jack Black were also very good, but the surprise treasure was (wait for it) Tom Cruise! If I hadn’t already known that he was in the movie, I would NOT have recognized him! He was HILARIOUS – and I’m not even a Tom Cruise fan! (I begrudgingly admired him in “Rainman,” but that was because I thought working with Dustin Hoffman brought out his best.) Imagine Tom Cruise at his craziest (i.e. jumping on a couch, ranting about psychiatry, etc.); now multiply that by about 10; now imagine him looking like that guy from “The Actors’ Studio,” and you get the idea.

    There were so many ridiculous things in this movie, that I defy anyone to be offended. They skewered “Rambo,” “Big Momma’s House,” “Brokeback Mountain,” “Apocalypse Now,” “Saving Private Ryan,” “Deliverance,” and “Catch 22,” to name a few – and I bet there were some I didn’t even get! I don’t think anyone should feel guilty about laughing at this dopey thing – heck, RDJ and Tom Cruise were nominated for Golden Globes for this (but lost out to our dear “Joker,” Heath Ledger).

    Note to Marni: Hah! “The plural of Viet Cong is Viet Cong?” More quotes: “I think I can put it back in.” And: “I think I would know a prop head when I see one!” (I may be paraphrasing, but you get the idea.) Also, if you don’t finish “The Dark Knight,” you won’t fully appreciate that “You-Tube” video of the “interview scene.”

    Okay, I’m shutting up now!

  4. Jessie Says:

    Dude, we DIDN’T know that Tom Cruise was in the movie! And about half way through it, my husband leaned over and said, “Who– Is that–?” and then we completely cracked up.

    But it got better when we saw the 65-ish-year-old man a few rows in front of us (who came to the dollar movie by himself) watching the credits. When he saw that it was Tom Cruise — I’ve never heard such a marvelous guffaw in my life.

  5. Dave Piedrahita Says:

    “you better pump the brakes kid….. you bout to cross some lines…..”

  6. Ellen Says:

    Ohmigod… I couldn’t decide which was more sick, wrong & hilarious in this movie… Robert Downey Jr. as a black guy or Tom Cruise as Les Grossman (?). Brilliant career moves by both & another excellent writeup Meg!

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